Members of the Carlton County TRIAD group, as well as the Fond du Lac Elders Group, learned about identity theft at the meeting on Wednesday, May 1.
Two representatives of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans presented the information about how people can protect themselves from identity theft. Identity theft is any information about a person that criminals can get to commit a fraud, such as bank account or credit card fraud or phone or utilities fraud.
When fraud is committed against innocent victims, it can affect their reputation and applications, such as for employment or credit.
Carlton County Sherriff Kelly Lake reported that some criminals will use their sibling’s name when booked into jail.
“It takes a lot to clear the brother’s name,” she said. “That brother could be picked up on a warrant. It costs $631 to fix that fraud, and it takes 131 hours to get it cleared.”
Personal information can be found in the trash placed outside of a home, or information can be obtained from stolen purses or wallets. Credit cards used at restaurants can sometimes be taken out of sight and the information scanned. Mail can be taken from mailboxes.
Phishing is when fraudulent emails are used to get information from computer users. The email can look legitimate, such as from the user’s financial institution. Smishing is a form of phishing and comes in text messages. Your personal information is asked.
Pharming is the planting of a malicious code on a personal computer or hacking into a server and changing Internet protocol to redirect users to fake websites or proxy servers.
Pretexting is getting your personal information under false pretenses and selling the information to others who use it to get credit in the person’s name, steal assets or to investigate the person.
People were warned not to give out personal information, such as Social Security numbers or even their mother’s maiden name, pet’s name or birthdates. Lock mailboxes, if possible.
Install anti-virus or a firewall on computers that don’t have protection. Secure smartphones. Order credit reports annually. People do not have to pay for credit reports.
For people that become victims of fraud, contact the bank or credit card company immediately. Report the crime to the local police department. Report the fraudulent activity to the Federal Trade Commission. Keep records of the interactions.
Contact the credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, and report the fraud. Ask that a fraud alert be placed on your records requiring that you be contacted to approve any new credit requests for 90 days.
Review your credit reports.
A TRIAD member read an email that he had received the day before from his former pastor who had moved to Wisconsin.
In the email, the pastor wrote that he was on a trip to Scotland and that, due to various circumstances, he did not have the money to return home. He asked the TRIAD member to send $980 to him.
The member said that he called the former pastor and talked to him. He was not in Scotland.
Several members of the group were familiar with the call to grandparents, where a supposed grandchild calls to ask the grandparent to wire money to Canada to bail them out of jail or to pay for some other problem that the grandchild has.
A TRIAD member said that she had received such a call, and asked excitedly, “Is this Michael?”
When the caller assured her that it was, she replied, “I don’t have a grandson named Michael,” and promptly hung up.
The presenters of the program said that flood victims can also be victims of fraud when promised help. But they are asked for money up front first. The promised help never comes.
People were advised to use a credit card to pay for a meal in a restaurant instead of a debit card. Credit cards have a limited liability; the debit cards can be used to clear out one’s checking account.
Sheriff Lake spoke of burglaries that have occurred in homes in Thompson Township, the Holyoke area and in southern St. Louis County. Call 911 if anyone suspicious comes to the door, she advised.
Moose Lake Police Chief Bryce Bogenholm said that his department is seeing a lot of people suffering from depression and are suicidal. He asked people to call 911 if there are indicators of potential suicides. The police department and sheriff’s office can refer the person to suicide prevention resources in the county.
Meth is still high as the drug of choice, said Bogenholm. Illegal use of prescription drugs and marijuana are also being used highly.
He reported that he had recently attended a training where they were trained in how to use a taser and to take down an active shooter.
Bogenholm also spoke of the construction on the hospital and McDonald's this summer.
Since the two pancake breakfasts that were to be held by Lighthouse as fundraisers for TRIAD had to be cancelled due to the weather, it was suggested that the fundraiser breakfast be held in September. More information will be available at a later date.
The next meeting of TRIAD was set for Wednesday, June 5, tentatively at the Moose Lake Community Center at 10 a.m.