Tips given on avoiding identity theft at forum


Reporting fraudulent use of debit cards in a timely manner and varying passwords used for online personal accounts can limit losses due to identity theft, according to the Illinois Attorney General’s office.

Debit card users should check their account statements frequently to help ensure they will be responsible for no more than $500 in fraudulent transactions, Eric Salcedo, community outreach coordinator for the attorney general’s office, said at a workshop on identity theft and data security breaches that that was held by area chambers of commerce.

The maximum loss on a fraudulent debit card transaction is $50 if the incident is reported within two business days of a statement being issued for the account, and the maximum loss is $500 if the incident is reported after two days but within 60 days, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Card holders could be responsible for the entire amount after 60 days.

The maximum loss for fraudulent use of credit cards is $50 if the problem is reported within 60 days of the credit card issuer sending the bill.

Salcedo said that using passwords of at least eight characters, which should include at least one numeral and a punctuation mark, will help prevent thieves from getting into online accounts. It also was recommended that passwords be changed on a regular basis and that the same password not be used for all accounts.

One of the challenges facing Internet users is the difficulty is remembering all of their passwords, Salcedo said. He said that some people store their passwords in a folder in their e-mail account, but that is risky if the e-mail account is hacked.

There have been several recent security breaches at hospitals and department stores that put millions of consumers at risk, Salcedo said. The Target retail chain recently sent its credit card holders a letter offering a free credit check report service as a result of a breach that hit the company, he said.

State law requires companies to notify residents of security breaches. A breach occurs when a person’s name and one of the following pieces of information is compromised: a society security number, a driver’s license number, a state identification card number or a credit card number.

The attorney general’s toll-free hotline for identity theft victims is 866-999-5630.