By LOIS KINDLE
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office is offering area residents the latest information on economic fraud and its proliferation with the rapid growth of technology.
Four presentations will be presented in Sun City Center for all South Shore area residents. They will include ways to minimize the chance for preventing fraud, available resources for victims and a Q & A session.
Each free presentation is open to the public. The schedule is as follows:
• Sept. 12, 10 a.m., Caper Room, Sun City Center Community Association Atrium, 945 North Course Lane
• Sept. 12, 1 p.m., Ripple Room, Kings Point North Club, 1900 Clubhouse Drive
• Sept. 19, 11 a.m. Freedom Auditorium, Freedom Plaza, 1010 American Eagle Blvd.
• Sept 20, 3 p.m. American Momentum Bank, 131 Pebble Beach Blvd.
The statistics are staggering.
Last year, more than 2 million Americans became victims of credit or debit card fraud, and criminals stole $16 billion worldwide, said HCSO Community Resource Deputy Jeff Merry, the facilitator of each presentation.
“Nearly half of all credit card and debit card fraud occurs in the United States, even though we have less than a quarter of all transaction volume,” he continued. “Our local (District IV) office is getting an increasing number of calls from residents who have been victimized.”
Merry said a senior living in Sun City Center hadn’t used her Beall’s credit card in three years but suddenly received a bill for $700. Through an investigation, it was discovered her credit card number had been used in North Tampa.
Ninety percent of compromised cards result from large-scale hacks of companies like Target, H.H. Gregg and Sally’s Beauty, Merry said. So far this year, account information has been criminally accessed at Kmart, Arby’s, Chipotle and, most recently, Equifax.
Credit cards and debit cards are also compromised by outright theft, gas station skimmers, email phishing and verbal transactions over the phone, where the cardholder provides the card number and security code to someone they don’t know.
According to the Federal Trade Commission and other sources, there are things consumers can do to minimize the chances of this kind of fraud. Some include:
• Keeping a list of all your accounts and putting it in a safe place. It should include all expiration dates and the contact number for reporting any problems.
• Avoiding entry of card numbers online at sites you don’t know.
• Refusing to lend your credit or debit cards to anyone, even family members.
• Keeping your cards, receipts and statements out of view. It’s also recommended that you shred these items rather than simply throwing them in the trash.
• Monitoring your credit card or debit card statements as soon as you receive them, whether via mail or online, and reporting any suspicious activity immediately.
• Using a credit card instead of a debit card tied to your physical money. The credit card is an electronic line of spending that’s easier to clean up and doesn’t affect your bank balance in case of fraud.
For others tips, visit /www.consumer.ftc.gov/.
“Technology is moving so fast these days that by the time the good guys close a loophole, the bad guys have found another one,” Merry said. “All you can do is be careful when you use your cards and vigilant about checking your accounts.”
To report cases of fraudulent use of your credit card or debit card, call 813-242-5525.