A number of Lantana residents have found they have lots of new credit accounts, but they weren’t the ones who opened them.
The identity thefts, as well as reports of illegal use of credit/debit cards, have been occurring with alarming frequency.
Five residents, including three on the same street, have filed reports with the Denton County Sheriff’s Department in the past few weeks and more are expected.
“I knew something was wrong when I got a ‘Welcome to Sam’s Club’ letter, because my husband and I are Costco members,” said victim Kelli Hudson. “Next, I got notice of a Target account and charges made in Pennsylvania, then a Macy’s account. It was horrible. I notified the three credit bureaus and contacted the Life Lock people and was advised to file a police report.”
Hudson said investigators from the sheriff’s department came to her home. After that meeting, one of her neighbors was curious if things were alright. Hudson told her about the identity theft and the neighbor said she knew of a couple of other people on her street who’ve also been victims.
As the word began to spread, Hudson soon discovered at least six women on her street– Burnett Drive in Heritage– had been ID theft victims. In one case, over 20 fraudulent accounts were opened unbeknownst to the victim.
“I posted my story on Facebook and that’s when I heard from other people who had similar stories,” said Hudson. “One woman told me she’d had a notice that she had a Saks Fifth Avenue bill for $25,000 and has started getting Louis Vuitton catalogs. Another neighbor who heard about the story pulled her credit report and discovered she was also a victim.”
It is anybody’s guess at this point as to how the ID thefts are occurring.
The Argyle Postmaster said no missing mail has been reported and a sheriff’s department spokesperson said that there is no indication so far that the incidents have anything to do with stolen mail.
In the meantime, authorities are urging resident to be extra vigilant about protecting their identity.
“People need to be extremely careful with their personal information,” said Sandi Brackeen from the sheriff’s department.
Tips to protect your identity from the Federal Citizen Information Center include:
– Only give out your social security number when absolutely necessary.
– Collect mail promptly. Ask the post office to put your mail on hold when you are away from home for more than a day or two.
– Pay attention to your billing cycles. If bills or financial statements are late, contact the sender.
– Watch for unauthorized credit card transactions.
– Tear up or shred unwanted receipts, credit offers, account statements, expired cards, etc., to prevent dumpster divers getting your personal information.
– Don’t respond to unsolicited requests for personal information in the mail, over the phone or online.
– Password-protect your wireless router and install firewalls and virus-detection software on your home computer.
– Check your credit report at least once a year.
Anyone who has yet to report any suspicious activity should contact Sheriff Department Investigator Roger McAfee at 940-349-1669.