ID theft webinar outlines red flags to watch for on accounts

By Ava Wilhite

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - South Carolina residents like Heather Popovich were notified by letter that their personal information was hacked.

"It was shocking. I opened the mailbox and it was sitting there. I called my husband and immediately I was like, 'What the heck is going on,'" said Popovich. {}

She and others are still trying to figure out the best plan to combat the security breach.

"At this point it probably is too soon for anything really to be cycling on to their credit reports or for anything to be happening," said Donna Backwinkel, the consumer services director, for the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs, who says reports of identity theft peak nine months to one year after the breach takes place.

She said now is the time to look for other red flags, including mistakes on your financial statements, bills for items you've never purchased and even bills that don't arrive on time.

"If you see like a $1 debit or a charge on your account and you just think that's odd, that may be your first clue that someone trying to see if that account is good. Even if it's a very small amount people need to talk to their banker," said Backwinkel.

Backwinkel also suggests using security freezes on your credit reports or a fraud alert, which prevents new credit being issued in your name.

"The security freeze locks down your credit report. It will stop business from seeing your credit report without your permission," said Backwinkel. {}

Backwinkel said it's up to each individual if they want to cancel bank account numbers and get new ones, but it's not necessary.

"We've been in touch with the bankers association and the credit union association. They are not suggesting that people close down one bank account and then open a new one. The banks have some liability on their own to not give money out to people who are fraudulent," said Backwinkel.

If you are a victim of identity theft, it's important to document everything, she said.