Chamber members hear about effects of identity theft
SHAMOKIN - In 1995, identity theft costs victims about $442 million. Over the next seven years, the number grew astronomically to more than $50 billion.
It continues to grow today.
Members of the Brush Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce learned about identity theft and how to prevent it during their monthly membership gathering Tuesday, a breakfast at Rob's Good Time Grill.
Guest speaker Julie Bramlitt, an investment adviser with First National Investment Services Co., part of FNB Corp., parent of First National Bank of Pennsylvania, enlightened members on the different types of identify theft.
"Financial" is the most familiar, but there is also criminal identity theft, which occurs when a person gives someone else's information to law enforcement, and "identity cloning," where someone assumes another the victim's identity in his or her work and life.
Bramlitt said most people fall victim to identity theft by being careless with personal identifiers, such as Social Security numbers, account numbers, dates of birth and addresses.
"A Social Security number can be used to establish new lines of credit, utility service, buy merchandise, even lease cars and apartments," Bramlitt said.
She said the average victim will spend 175 hours - over a month's worth of 40-hour work weeks - to repair identity theft damage.
Her suggestions for preventing fraud include knowing how identifying information will be used and shared; watching to make sure all bills show up on time in the mail; taking outgoing mail to the post office or post office collection boxes rather than in home mail boxes, and only carrying essential identification cards.
She said one of the best ways to become educated is to visit www.annualcreditreport.com.
"That site can get you a free credit report from all three major credit bureaus free of charge, to see if there is a problem," Bramlitt said. They include Experian (TRW), TransUnion and Equifax.
If a person discovers something wrong, the first step is to contact the fraud department at one or even all three of the credit bureaus, then contact the account issuer, such as a credit card company or bank, and then local police.
Documenting everything is the key, she said.
"When you do that, it lets us and the police know you are serious about this and we will work side by side with you," Bramlitt said. "You could say it's not my charge but if you are not willing to put in the work to dispute it, we get a little suspicious."
Tuesday's breakfast was co-sponsored by the Housing Authority of Northumberland County, which was represented by Executive Director Ed Christiano, who spoke about a number of authority programs, and First National Bank, Shamokin, represented by bank manager Pamela Burns, who is chamber board president.
Chamber director Whitney Fetterman reported that a number of past model train cars are still available for $20 each at the chamber office, and that a new car, a caboose, will be available in November.
Upcoming chamber events include the annual chamber dinner at Masser's Banquet Hall, Paxinos, on Thursday, Nov. 14, and a "Chamber Cheers" event at Mountain View: A Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, on Thursday, Dec. 5.
Brewser's SportsGrille will hold a special fundraising night for the chamber on Sunday, Dec. 8. Coupons will be distributed and 20 percent of each customer's bill will be donated to the chamber.
Next month's luncheon will be politically themed, Fetterman said, and will be held Tuesday, Oct. 15, at a location to be announced.