MADISON, Wis. (2/2/12)--Identity theft--already one of the nation's fastest growing crimes--has made its first appearance among the top 10 consumer complaints in Wisconsin in 2011, ranking fifth, according to Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.
"For identity thieves, accessing personal information like Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, and financial account information is like winning the lottery," said Sandy Chalmers, Division Administrator of Trade and Consumer Protection. "Remember that identity thieves will do or say anything to get their hands on your personal information."
Consumers should use extreme caution when sharing personal information online and safely maintain credit reports and bank statements, Chalmers said. Consumers should report irregular activity to their financial institution or credit card company.
Credit unions can alert members when any questionable activity occurs on their members accounts.
Also, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Justice Department recently completed a crackdown on suspected identity theft perpetrators as part of a stepped-up effort against refund fraud and identity theft.
The nationwide sweep, led by the Justice Department's Tax Division and local U.S. Attorneys' offices, targeted 105 people in 23 states. The initiative took place over the last week and included indictments, arrests and the execution of search warrants involving the potential theft of thousands of identities and taxpayer refunds. In all, 939 criminal charges are included in the 69 indictments related to identity theft.
IRS auditors and investigators also conducted about 150 compliance visits to check-cashing businesses in nine locations nationwide in the past week. The visits were made to help ensure these check-cashing facilities weren't facilitating refund fraud and identity theft.
The IRS has more than 250 check-cashing operations under audit nationwide to look for indicators of identity theft as part of the exam effort.The information from these audits and compliance visits will be used to assist continuing IRS investigations into refunding fraud and identity theft.