Striking back against identity theft

by Lisa Schauer

About a third of Americans will be victimized by identity theft in their lifetimes, according to the National Council on Identity Theft Protection.

Far from being a victimless crime, identity theft is a constant threat in our modern society.

Dumpster divers, internet trolls, telephone scammers, eavesdroppers, and computer hackers rummage and phish for personal information, including credit card and social security numbers and medical cards, in order to create fake identities, steal funds from bank accounts, open utility accounts, create medical charges, and run up credit cards.

“This is when the hell begins,” said a local woman who was victimized by identity theft in 2021 and wishes to remain anonymous, as she continues to deal with the fallout.

After her Home Depot credit card information was compromised, she was hit with two more cases of credit card theft. She canceled her credit cards, closed her accounts and placed fraud alerts with the three nationwide credit reporting companies, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

One of her credit card companies required a copy of the police report in order to refund the fraudulent charges. Law enforcement officers in the U.S. do not charge to file a police report, but a cost may be involved to get a copy of the report. In West Virginia, that charge is $20.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is taking new measures to combat identity theft, one of the state’s biggest consumer complaints.

“Identity theft is always very high on the list of consumer complaints every year,” said Morrisey.

“We want to help you avoid getting ripped off. Identity theft is something we haven’t talked about in a while. Be mindful not to share your personal information with anyone. Be wary of dumpster diving, where people look for your information in your trash, and avoid calls from scammers asking for your personal information,” Morrisey continued.

“But what do you do if you do get scammed?” he poses.

Morrisey’s office has released two short videos with identity theft prevention and remediation tips.

Here are some tips from the West Virginia Attorney General on what consumers can do if they think they’ve been scammed.

“First thing you do, call your local police.  Call our office. We’ll try to do everything we can to help you. Report the crime. Property crime, identity crime, that’s a very real thing. Let them know right away,” Morrisey advises.

Second, change those passwords right away. Make sure people can’t come back a second time to steal from you.

Third, if you have a credit card stolen, make sure to call your insurance company. Insurance typically covers a lot of losses that occur via theft and your credit card.

If you think your identity has been compromised, make sure you freeze the cards that you have, and get new cards.

Report the theft to your bank or credit card company and they may refund you the money. Make sure you’re getting into these conversations so they know what might be yours, and what might be a thief’s. Report it to all the credit agencies.

Leave the information in a secure place, and be careful when you’re in public so you don’t give any information away. Shred all the relevant information you may not need.

If you suspect you have been the victim of identity theft, call local law enforcement, and the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 800-368-8808 or to report it.

Also, consumers can file a report with the Federal Trade Commission at to prevent the scammers from harming others.