Credit card fraud and identity theft are two issues that can derail finances quickly. These crimes can leave victims with a damaged credit score, and can go unnoticed if consumers don’t know what to look for. Understanding how to avoid credit fraud is thus an important part of achieving financial health. Financial expert, Thomas Nitzsche explains how consumers can be guarded against credit card fraud and identity theft in the audio clip below:
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Welcome to ‘Today’s Issues’; a public affairs program that takes
a look at the issues of today.
Christy: I’m Christy Carson. 8 million people are impacted by credit
card and identity thief each year.
Thomas: We’ve got Smartphones, we’ve got our email hooked up to it, our
texting. Many of us don’t lock those phones and information
stored on them many times. We make payments through our mobile
Christy: Criminals and thieves are getting smarter and sneakier to steal
your information. Today, we will learn how to protect yourself
and identity theft recovery with our guest from Clearpoint
Credit Counseling Solutions. After that, it’s a look at our
Community Calendar, followed by Missouri Viewpoint.
Mike: Complicated issues do not have to be confusing. The issues of tax
credit in Missouri seems to me to be one of those stories that
people tune out because we in the media don’t often make it
clear why that debate matters to you.
Male: We spent $600, sometimes $700 million cumulative, on all of those tax
credits that exit.
Mike: I’m Mike Ferguson. I hope we can clear that up now.
Christy: It’s all coming up next on ‘Today’s Issue’. I am Christy
Carson. I was watching TV over the weekend and a trailer came on
about this movie; it is a comedy. It’s called ‘Identity Thief’.
It looked funny, but in reality, I know that there is nothing
funny about being a victim of identity theft or credit card
fraud. With the recent security breaches that left one of our
local grocery retailers reeling in problems, I began to wonder
what we needed to know to protect ourselves.
I reached out to one of my favorite guys, Thomas Nietzsche,
Media Relations Specialist at Clearpoint Credit Counseling
Solutions. Thanks so much for joining us today.
Thomas: Thanks for having us.
Christy: Identity thief; it really is more prevalent than many of us can
imagine. It seems that financial transactions are becoming more
convenient and paperless. The incidents of credit card fraud and
ID theft are increasing. How do you see it Thomas?
Thomas: You make a good point. As technology comes along and life gets
more convenient, it opens up a lot more opportunity for risk,
too. We’ve got Smartphones, we’ve got our email hooked up to it,
our texting. Many of us don’t lock those phones and information
stored on there many times. We make payments through our mobile
devices, our computers. We’ve got hackers that are hacking into
databases, either individuals or companies. You’ve got huge
I remember the problem with the gaming console a couple of years
ago, and then there the large retailer here in San Louis,
recently. It definitely is a difficult time to be making
transactions and trying to keep yourself out of trouble,
Christy: For sure, corporations and businesses who deal with financial
transaction and personal information do have a responsibility to
protect our information. But the ultimate responsibility falls
on each consumer ourselves. We need to be our own security
agents when it comes to protecting our information and our
families. Let’s start with telemarketers and telemarketing
schemes. They are high on the list for potential illegal
schemes. Tell us more.
Thomas: A lot of people will call; this happens especially with the
senior citizens in the community. Telemarketers will call, or
someone will call; they might even be the posing as your bank.
They could be posing as a company and just trying to get
sensitive information from you, not necessarily all at one time.
They’ll ask really leading questions that will say, “I need to
verify this, or can you verify that?” You have to be really
careful. If you don’t . . . if you aren’t expecting a call or if
you don’t usually do business with that company, or even if you
do business with that company, tell them you’ll need to call
them back. Hang up the phone and call them back. Tell them to
note your account and you’ll call them back in a future time.
Christy: These markers can, and often, use forms of other delivery too,
including direct mail and email schemes. If you receive
something in the mail, in your inbox, and you have that gut
suspicion that it’s too good to be true or you don’t know who
it’s from, do your additional research before even responding.
Thomas: Right. We get this mail all the time that looks like a
government document; it might look like a tax form or something
really official. Again, as technology gets better and better,
those replications look better and better. It really takes some
time. I got one not too long ago where I looked at it and I set
aside because I was busy. Then I came back to it and it took a
little while for me to determine that this really isn’t
something legitimate. I think it was something to do with an
extended warranty on my car or something. A lot of times, if
they do pay to get access to your credit report, they’ll know
who you owe, what things you have outstanding, and who that loan
is to. If they see it’s to GMAC for example, they know that you
probably have a loan with a GM product, so then can ask you
leading questions about, “Your GM’s warranty may be coming up
soon. We need to get some information from you,” or whatever the
case may be.
With the age of the internet, it’s very easy to get information
about people if you don’t have your privacy settings at very
closely or very strongly. You can get information off people’s
LinkedIn profiles, their Facebook, or whatever it might be. Then
there’s even information that’s considered public record. We had
a situation where a client had . . . their house had been for
sale before they owned it and it was on Zillow. There were
pictures of the inside of the house and all sorts of sensitive
information. You don’t want somebody knowing what the layout of
your house is like, if there’s a deadbolt on that door, or
whatever it might be.
It’s not just the high-tech, sometimes, it is the very simple
steps that we need to take: Is things secure home? Do I have a
safe? Should that be in the bank in a safety deposit box? Just
walk around your house and say, “If I didn’t live here, how much
damage could I do to somebody? If this weren’t my house, what
could I get hold of?”
Christy: I hadn’t even thought about people pulling information off of
LinkedIn or Facebook. Wow. That is great information. Thomas,
what about the lure of winning that big prize? This could be
also a method of stealing information.
Thomas: Right. That goes back a long time, too. It used to be with the
long distance companies when there used to be high competition
for long distance. They would setup the kiosk in the mall and it
would say ‘Sign up for this prize, the big car that we’ve got
sitting here. Shiny new car; sign up to win it.’ If you read the
fine print, you are actually switching your long distance
service to a new carrier. You do have to be really careful;
always read the fine print. Nobody wants to read those long
disclaimers, but if you see something’s for free, there is
always a catch; you know there’s going to be a catch. Find out
what the catch is before you sign on the dotted line and maybe
give information away that could hurt you financially.
Christy: Some things you need to do to help prevent identity theft or
credit card fraud. As you have indicated the large majority of
us utilize ATMs regularly. Often, we nonchalantly pull up to the
machines, we complete our transactions, and we don’t even think
twice about safety. What are the things that we should be doing
or thinking of when we’re using ATM machines?
Thomas: You really do one want to be careful, especially if it’s an ATM
not in a well-lit area or in a very high-traffic area. There
have been cases where people attached magnetic scan readers to
the ATM and people don’t even realize that that information is
being scanned when they go to use their ATM card. Also, look
around. Is there anything unusual? Is there anyone nearby? Does
it look suspicious? Is there any camera-like devices around that
don’t appear to be official? There’s a lot of things that you
need to keep in mind, especially when you are using an ATM that
is a foreign ATM, that’s not your bank’s ATM; especially if you
are travelling. This is the time of the year that you travel.
Thomas: There’s a lot of danger, both as you leave home; there’s
dangers that you’re leaving at home, and as you travel, there’s
dangers that present themselves. You do need to be careful.
Christy: Speaking of cameras, even those surveillance cameras mounted
near or an ATM, I’m skeptical of. What I like to do is I like to
place my hand over my other hand that’s entering the PIN number,
just in case someone might be watching that tape later to see
what my PIN number is. I’m just weird like that. I go that
little extra mile and cover up my fingertips.
Thomas: That is a good tip, because if they do get that information off
the card and then they know your PIN number from using a camera
like that, they can do a lot of damage before you have a chance
to stop it and it could be a cash transaction. You do want to be
sure that you do those things; to look closely and cover up the
keypad if you’re making a PIN transaction. If you got people
around you, just being mindful of what’s going around in your
surroundings so that you’re not opening yourself up for possible
a bad situation.
Christy: Should I ask for my receipt or make sure I get my receipt
before I leave? How does that play into this whole protection?
Thomas: It is a good idea if you can. Sometimes, those machines run out
of paper, they don’t have it, or whatever. That’s always
annoying. If you can, try to get a receipt of your transaction
so you know that you were there; you have a paper trial that you
were there. Ultimately, is that one step going to safeguard you?
No, but it all works towards your financial benefit if you keep
your paper trail.
Christy: There was some interesting information regarding this on your
website, ClearpointCCS.org. It says victims of credit thief
report an average of $7,260 in fraudulent charges. That means
that the average charge in fraudulent activities is upwards of
$7,500. 8.4 million Americans fall victim to ID theft each year.
That is a lot of money, a lot of people.
When we come back, I want to talk about the process of
recovering from ID theft. What happens? How long does it take to
return to some state of financial normalcy? We’ll find out with
Thomas Nietzsche, Media Relations Professional with Clearpoint
Credit Counseling Solutions. That’s next on ‘Today’s Issues’.
Welcome back to ‘Today’s Issues’. Identity theft; someone steals
your identity, makes fraudulent financial transactions, you find
out about it, you’re devastated, and then you have to recover.
You have to start this process of getting back to some sense of
financial normalcy. Thomas Nietzsche, of Clearpoint Credit
Counseling Solutions, is with me this morning to discuss this
topic. Thomas, is it easy to recover from ID theft?
Thomas: It really depends on the particular case. It is a horrible
feeling; there’s a huge emotional impact to having that happen.
It is the same thing when your house gets broken into or your
car gets stoles. It is just a horrible feeling. Yeah, there are
steps that you definitely need to take: Getting a police report
of the incident is important. Contacting all your financial
institutions right away and making sure they know so they can
put in an alert or reissue you a new card. Having that
investigated and figure out what is the next step is going to
be, depending on what type of charge it was and if it was a
simple error or if it was something malicious.
It’s important to check your statements; that’s the Number 1
thing. Going back to prevention, and even the recovery process,
the first step is finding out when it was, how much it was for,
and who it was or where it was? That’s really the first point,
is to just gather all the facts, get yourself together, and then
contact your law enforcement. As well as filing online; the
Federal Trade Commission, FTC.gov accepts complains, as well as
the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It’s important to
reach out to those agencies as well, and file your report,
because there may be larger investigations going on . . .
Thomas: . . . that they need to be aware of your situation.
Christy: Before you go any further, to add to that reporting these
activities; recent data shows that of those who felt like their
information might have been compromised and fraudulent activity
had taken place, only 54% actually reported the transaction or
the information. You know what that means? Another 46% did not.
Reporting these incidents actually helps to improve security
measures to catch these thieves.
Thomas: It’s true. Even if you feel like it’s not a big deal; if it was
some sort of eBay transaction or PayPal transaction that went
through for just a few dollars, that could be some larger
investigation that the Federal Government is conducting. It’s
important to file that information, even if it’s not a big deal
to you. It could be a very big deal to a large investigation.
Christy: Depending on the severity of the case, it could take a long
time to recover from the ID theft. I’ve heard some say years.
Thomas: If it was a case where your Social Security Number was
compromised, for example, and new lines of credit were open on
your credit bureau and under your name; it can really take
really a long time for that get all that cleared up because the
credit bureau have to be notified. It can be real struggle to
for the consumer to get that information off their credit report
when it’s that type of ID theft; when it’s not simply someone
taking your existing account. When it’s an existing account
that’s been compromised and someone’s using that without your
knowledge, that does not take as long to correct because you’re
just involving the bank, and the bank does an investigation and
credits you back, and that is then a loss to them because they
insure that for you. That’s not that severe. If it is a case
where there’s a new account open, that is pretty drastic.
Christy: We talked earlier about criminals targeting the elderly
population, but recovery can be a little harder for a certain
segment of the population. For instance, those who utilize these
pay cards and literally have that one card to do all their
transactions. If it is compromised and that card is deactivated,
what do you do then? What fall back do you have?
Thomas: It presents a huge financial hardship on those financial people
who are only working off only one debit or credit card. For some
Americans, it’s not a big deal if one card is compromised. They
can say, “Okay, no problem. We’ll just not use that one for a
while that gets cleared up. We’ll turn to our other card.” Our
average client comes in with 5 or 6 credit cards. That’s not a
big deal. When you’re talking about segments of society that may
only be using one, that’s typically older adults as well as
lower income folks, as well.
Another segment where we see people be targeted are very young
people. Those would be children, very young. The average age, I
think, for the child ID thief was 5-years-old. The Social
Security Number is compromised, and because they’re child,
they’re obviously not checking their credit report and their
parents often are not either because they just don’t think
anything could possibly be under their name. They’re not doing
anything financially. That ID theft can go on for a longer
period of time unnoticed. When the child then hits 18 and starts
using credit, they can sometimes be in for a very rude awakening
when they realizes that someone’s been using their ID all this
It’s important to take steps to prevent that from happening, as
well. I know AllClearID.com has a really great product that’s
free; it’s called a Free Child Scan. It’ll actually run your
child’s Social through a series of databases against credit card
fraud, insurance fraud, all different types of financial
scenarios that might your Security Number where you would want
it used by anyone other than the [inaudible: 06:39].
Christy: What was that again?
Thomas: That was, AllClearID.com.
Christy: Speaking of that, I went to your website; you guys have a lot
of great information ranging from ID theft and protecting
yourself, to building the right budget for you and your family.
Lot of great information and interactive opportunities, I’ll
tell you. Basically, everything you need to know and do to help
you live your best financial is pretty much right there on the
Thomas: We do. We actually have a really brilliant new web design
writer and content writer. His work is really great. We’ve got
some the things in our achieves that are wonderful, as well;
everything from just straightforward traditional ID theft to
prevention to more fringe things, like how to prevent people
from soliciting a deceased relative. That’s something that bugs
a lot of people. If your spouse or your child passes away and
you’re getting junk mail or soliciting calls, and you can’t seem
to get them to stop. The last thing you want is that reminder of
that person in almost a negative way. You don’t want the
solicitation of that person. There’s a lot of bit of information
on how to stop solicitation, do-not-call list, and that sort of
things. Definitely check it out at ClearpointCCS.org,
ClearpointCreditCouncelingSolutions.org, as well.
Christy: It really is a great website. It’s clear that Clearpoint can
help with a lot of different problems. That’s another reason I
wanted to have you on today, to make more clear as to what you
do at Clearpoint and other credit counseling services. A credit
counseling service wouldn’t be the first resource that many
people would’ve thought of when it comes to discussing the topic
of ID thief and protecting your identity. That’s only because of
a lot of us are unaware of all that you do. Can you clear up
some of the misperceptions about what you do, or maybe even what
you don’t do?
Thomas: Sure. The debt relief industry and the credit counseling
industry has gotten really murky in recent years with the
proliferation of for-profit debt settlement companies,
bankruptcy attorneys that have gotten into high-volume
advertising and trying to lead people into . . . going in one of
those routes. If you reach out to a nonprofit credit counseling
agency, it’s always good to first start by going to the
NFCC.org; that’s the National Foundation for Credit Counseling,
which is our governing body. You should also visit BBB.org,
which is the Better Business Bureau’s website.
Make sure that the agency that you reach out to is listed on
those and they are in good standing. The things that they can
help you with, you’re right; it really does range vary widely.
Anything from just basic budgeting help, ‘I need to get
organized. I need to get my budget in order. I want to
accomplish some goals; how do I get there? I need to be saving
more. I want to pay down my student loan. I need to pay off
credit cards; whatever it might be. The certified financial
counselor is going to take a look at your specific financial
situation; take a look at your income, your assets, your
creditors, your monthly housing and living expenses, get it all
on paper, and then come up with a personalized action plan for
your particular situation. It’s going to go vary widely from a
person to the next, which is really a great part about our job
because we come in contact with so many different people; such a
wild range of people. We have CFO that come in that just can’t
get their personal finances in order, and I think it’s because
they do . . . they deal with finances all day long.
Christy: All the time. Who wants to see it when you get home?
Thomas: Yeah. Who wants to come and deal with your own personal
finances? Then on the other end of the spectrum, we have people
who are homeless, who are just trying to get in a situation
where they can get their housing in order and get a roof over
their head, get transportation, and maintain employment. There
really is no . . . before I came to Clearpoint, I used to
stereotype about the people that I might see in this line of
work, but you really can’t. It’s artists, it’s professionals,
it’s everyday laborers, it’s just anybody that we see.
We can help with mortgage issues: If you’re behind in your
mortgage, we have certified housing counselors. That service is
provided free through HUD. We get grant funding from HUD to
provide that. If you’re having issues with credit card debt, we
do have programs available for credit card debt to reduce
interest in payments and work with your creditors to get you on
a repayment plan in under 5 years. We had a client that just
finished a repayment program of a $125,000. I believe it was
something like 40 credit cards. That’s got to be a great
feeling, to finally get that mess under control . . .
Christy: Yes. Oh, my goodness.
Thomas: . . . and to have a plan in place to get that done within a 5-
Christy: You brought up an important point: It’s one thing to pay
someone, and maybe or may be not be able to remove certain
information from your credit report or fix things. Until you
know why you got into a situation and you actively participate
in getting yourself out of that situation; the problem isn’t
fixed, it’s just delayed until the next time. You have to do the
work and you have to have the proper guidance to help.
Thomas: Exactly. Once the initial counseling session’s over, people
always say, “I thought this was going to be so much harder. The
hardest thing is just picking up the phone and making that first
contact.” Once we get people into that door and we sit them down
and explain how we work, and who we are, what we do; after that
initial session is over, even we have bad news for them, even if
there is a case where they do need to go and see a bankruptcy
attorney or take some other action that they don’t want to take,
they always say, “I’m glad I did this. I am glad I spoke to you.
I feel like you were objective; that you weren’t just working
for the bank or working to push me towards this or that.” That
it’s an objective look at their situation and just a reality
check, basically. Let’s see what is coming in, let’s see what is
coming out. What are your options? Based on what your options
are, then the consumer makes the choice ‘Which way am I going to
go when I know the pros and cons of each of these?’ Many
consumers do choose to do the hard work and to repay that debt,
especially here in the Midwest. People are very conscientious
and very . . . they’re wanting to do the right thing and they’re
wanting to make good on the debt that they had incurred.
Thomas: It’s a great place to do the counseling because it is very
rewarding, because people do often make that choice. It’s really
great to send them that successful completion letter after 52
months or whatever it is, 48 months; when they’ve completed it
and overcome that financial hardship. They then have sometimes
thousands of dollars back in their pocket every month that they
can start a vacation fund, start putting in savings, or whatever
it might be.
Christy: Whether you have 40 credit cards or you’re trying to establish
your first credit card, Clearpoint Credit Counseling Solutions
can offer assistance with great information, planning, and
guidance. Thomas, you have an invite to some of your future
Thomas: With the topic of ID theft, Clearpoint does dissipate in Secure
Identity Day, so definitely be looking this fall. We’ll be sure
to have it in the news, in the newspapers, and definitely on our
website, ClearpointCCS.org. Clearpoint partners with RNA
Worldwide, does electronic recycling to keep the information
clear off electronic devices and safely recycle your computers
and destroy the hardware drives, and they also accept cell
phones. Then we also partner with Syntax Document Management,
and they destroy all the paper work. If you look around your
house and see you’ve got bank statements from 10 years ago, it’s
definitely time to start doing some sorting. As people go
paperless and banks go paperless, there’s going to be less and
less need to have those papers lying around.
Definitely be on the lookout for that. We do partner . . . it’ll
be October 5th, I believe, in the St. Louis metro area. That
information will be on our website, at ClearpointCCS.org, where
you can participate safely destroy that information to keep your
Christy: See? I had no clue that you did that at Clearpoint. That’s why
I wanted to have you on the program today. That’s some good
stuff. Thomas Nietzsche, Media Pelations Specialist, of
ClearpointCreditSolutions.org. Visit them online, at
ClearpointCCS.org. Thomas, thanks for joining me.
Thomas: Thank you.