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Protect yourself from identity theft

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It's a multi-million dollar crime, identity theft. Thieves stealing your good name to get state ID’s and licenses to write and cash checks and obtain credit cards.

News on Six reporter Patrina Adger says you’ve got to protect yourself from identity theft, since few others say it's impossible to do it for you.

Every day Tulsans go to local tag agencies to renew their driver's licenses or state ID's. Agent Mary Vanetta says in order to do so you must have proper identification from a list of primary and secondary forms. "There's been a few id's and driver's license stolen here lately."

So what happens if someone comes in with your identification, and gets a state issued license in your name. Tulsa Police detective Rick Koch says it's a growing crime. Almost every case that comes through his office is a counterfeit or fraudulent case. Individuals who've had their identity stolen and credit ruined, and merchants who're trying to collect on bad checks. "Part of the problem is we have people out of state come in or local people who manufacture counterfeit, out of state driver's licenses. They'll go to a tag agency and surrender the counterfeit ID in order to obtain the legitimate driver's license.”

Detective Koch says fraud and identity theft is so rampant, local merchants are taking stricter measures to prevent losses. Jan Stevens, business owner, "Even the legal system can't keep up!" Stevens owns the Snow Goose in Utica Square and says when it comes to checks, she only accepts them from regular customers. "In terms of identification you do all that you can, but once they're that good, so it's very difficult to recognize when a check is bad."

Koch says it's ultimately up to the consumer to protect their identity. Shred all cleared checks, papers and documents containing your personal information. "Everyone gets unsolicited credit cards in the mail and the bad guys know that and they will steal out of your mailbox." And steal your good name.

If you believe you've been a victim of identity theft. Detective Koch says to notify police immediately and make a report. Also contact all 3 credit bureaus. Here are the numbers Equifax 1-800-525-6285, Experian 1-888-397-3742and Trans Union 1-800-680-7289.
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