AG Mills encourages Mainers to watch their credit history and seek free advice if they think their identity has been stolen

December 11, 2013

The Maine Attorney General’s Office can help Maine consumers protect their private financial information and take action if it has been compromised – without a charge.

(AUGUSTA) Maine Attorney General Janet T. Mills is reminding Maine consumers to keep an eye on their credit reports this holiday season to avoid any unwanted “gifts” in the New Year. The Maine Attorney General’s Office can assist consumers in taking steps to protect their identity from fraudsters and connect them with free resources if they have been victimized.

“The last thing someone should do if they have been the victim of identity theft is to pay for services that are otherwise free,” said Attorney General Mills. “The Consumer Protection Division of our office can help people put proper safeguards in place and if they had their private identifying or financial information stolen, we can help them file reports and get their credit back on track. We do not charge for these services.”

Recent news reports have raised the specter of identity thieves who target children or the elderly for identity theft. While the statistics bear this out, the part of the story left untold is that this is usually not a random crime and that family members are often to blame.

“Far too often the person victimized by identity theft was exploited by a person they trusted,” said Attorney General Mills. “Parents who have ruined their own credit take out loans or apply for credit cards in the name of their children, and adult children do the same to elderly parents. We also know that this scenario is vastly underreported because family members are so reluctant to complain to authorities about their own family.”

In addition to the free resources offered by the Maine Attorney General’s Office, there are free federal resources as well. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) both offer guidance documents and assistance with making reports.

The FTC has a page dedicated to offering advice to parents on how to protect their child’s identity from theft. It gives parents a “how to” on knowing the warning signs, how to prevent the theft of their child’s identity, how to check their credit, and how to repair any damage if they are targeted. [Page: http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0040-child-identity-theft]

The CFPB has guides for people who are serving as powers of attorney, trustees, court appointed guardians and government fiduciaries (Social Security representative payees and VA fiduciaries.) The guides are intended to help the financial caregiver in three ways: • They walk you through your duties. • They tell you how to watch out for scams and financial exploitation, and what to do if your loved one is a victim. • They tell you where you can go for help.

The guides can be downloaded on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s website: [http://www.consumerfinance.gov/blog/managing-someone-elses-money/?utmsource=newsletter&utmmedium=email&utm_campaign=20131029OA]

If you have questions about these or other consumer matters, please contact the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General’s Office at 1(800) 436-2131 or consumer.mediation@maine.gov .

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