Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor hosts seminar in Tampa about identity theft

TAMPA — Identity theft may be a "faceless crime," but on Thursday, the victims had faces.

Dozens of people gathered in Tampa to learn how to guard against identity theft and pick up the pieces after being victimized. Consumer protection experts offered tips and listened to their stories.

Vickie Lynne of Tampa said she's a victim of tax fraud. Someone beat her to her return this year, and she had a frightening realization: A criminal had her Social Security number.

She went to Thursday's seminar, hosted by U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, to find out how she could persuade police to write a report about the crime. She needed a police report number to freeze her credit file but said Tampa police had told her they couldn't write one.

"They said they used to, but because of the volume … " she said, her voice trailing off.

Another woman said the same thing had happened to her.

"I tried a week ago," Yemi Ogunsanya said.

Tampa police Detective Bernie Ginaitt was in the room. He said there must have been some miscommunication. The agency does take these reports, though it has trouble investigating claims.

The women went to the nearby district office after the seminar, heartened by his promise.

Answers weren't so easy for Calvin Brooks, 34, a former U.S. Army specialist.

Brooks said his identity was stolen in 2009 and issues with his credit still haven't been fixed. He also said someone beat him to his tax return a year ago, when he was serving in Afghanistan.

The stress of identity theft, he said, has been worse than serving abroad.

A Federal Trade Commission official at the seminar offered to work with Brooks.

Castor said she set up Thursday's seminar because tax fraud and identity theft are growing problems, especially in Florida. "The IRS says one-third of ID theft due to tax fraud is happening in the state of Florida," she said.

She hoped local residents could learn how to safeguard themselves against this crime.

Derick Rill, a congressional liaison with the FTC, and Debbie Brown, of Hillsborough's Consumer Protection Agency, both offered tips.

Don't give to a charity without researching it first. Don't wire money unless you're positive you know who's on the other end. Don't ever give personal information over the phone to anyone who calls you.

Rill even offered a rhyme: "If you don't initiate, investigate."

Add your name to the National Do Not Call Registry. Be persistent when it comes to dealing with identity theft issues. When disputing charges, always send your communication by certified mail, so you have a paper trail if the issue ever goes to court.

And if a debt collector comes after you for debt due to identity theft, don't cave in, Rill said.

"You're in charge," he said. "They need to prove the debt is yours."

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3433.

Protect yourself from identity theft

• Drop mail off at a post office and consider getting a P.O. box.

• When on vacation, hold mail.

• Write "check ID" on the back of your credit card so retailers will be reminded to check for identification when the card is used.

• Don't give out personal information or money to anyone who calls you.

• File your tax return early.

• Pay for gas inside the store to avoid possible skimmers on the machines outside.

• If you're in the military, consider freezing your credit file before going abroad.

• Verify any loan, scholarship or grant offers.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor hosts seminar in Tampa about identity theft 05/03/12 [Last modified: Thursday, May 3, 2012 11:37pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Conor Oberst, Johnnyswim concerts moved out of State Theatre over construction issues

    Blogs

    Two more concerts -- including one this weekend -- have been moved out of the State Theatre in St. Petersburg as the venue continues to experience scaled-down crowd capacity following recent construction.

    Johnnyswim
  2. Hillsborough board to vote on new school start times

    K12

    TAMPA — The big issue at today's Hillsborough County School Board meeting will be the 2018-19 bell schedule. To save money and get students to school on time, …

    Hillsborough County School Board members tried to work out their differences at a training day in Temple Terrace on Oct. 11. Today, they will vote on revised school start times for 2018-19. [COLLEEN WRIGHT | Times]
  3. McCain condemns 'half-baked, spurious nationalism' in clear shot at Trump (w/video)

    National

    PHILADELPHIA — An emotional Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., launched a thinly veiled critique of President Donald Trump's global stewardship Monday night, using a notable award ceremony to condemn "people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems."

  4. Tampa could pay $200,000 to family of man crushed by city front-end loader

    Local Government

    TAMPA — City Hall could pay $200,000 to the family of a dump truck driver crushed last December by a front-end loader operated by a city employee.

    This aerial image from 10News WTSP shows the scene at a city of Tampa loading station where dump truck driver Pablo R. Femenias was crushed by a front end loader driven by a city employee on Dec. 28, 2016.
  5. How fast is too fast to raise the minimum wage? St. Pete might be about to find out

    Local Government

    Say this about St. Petersburg's City Council members:

    Their hearts are in the right place.

    It's their math that's askew.