Protect yourself from credit card fraud

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects

DETROIT - Investigators say Egberto Nieves went on shopping sprees with stolen credit cards.  The way he did it is frighteningly easy in this era of identity theft.

"Victims who had their identities in essence taken from them, where you have an individual who adds themselves as an authorized user, receives a card issued in that person's name and goes on a shopping spree, got cash advances," said U.S. Postal Inspector Kimberly Hairston.

Victims often don't find out their accounts were hijacked until they receive their next statement. But there is another clever layer to this scheme.

"Victims weren't receiving statements because of the change of address," Hairston explained.

Suspects would add themselves on the credit card account as an additional user and make a change of address, so victims weren't immediately alerted to problems. In this case, Nieves made good use of time purchasing smartphones, a laptop, Michael Kors purses, even a 65-inch television.
 
"But the majority of a lot of the transactions were cash advances where the suspect could actually go into different banking institutions and get cash advances," said Hairston.

There are 10 known victims so far, with losses exceeding $25,000, and investigators are convinced both numbers could grow.
 
Postal inspectors say there are two things you can do to help protect yourself.  First, regularly check your credit card accounts online -- don't rely on paper statements.  Also, most importantly, monitor your credit as often as possible.  

Everyone is entitled to one free credit report every year from each of the three credit reporting agencies. The Better Business Bureau of Northeast Florida  recommends the website AnnualCreditReport.com. It has step-by-step instructions and links to all three credit bureaus.

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