(04/08/14) - We hear stories all of the time about people who have become victims of identity theft. State leaders are trying to make sure that people take the necessary steps to protect their identity - especially senior citizens.
Barbara Walkley is one of many Americans who became a target of identity theft. Someone got a hold of her personal credit card information.
"I've had things show up on my credit card that were not my charges and I took care of it right away," she said.
She's not the only person in her family who dealt with this. Her mother had a more serious case of identity theft. Charges kept showing up on her account and they just didn't seem to go away.
"What was happening is people had access to her social security number, which they had gotten from employee stuff. They kept opening new accounts in her name. It wasn't where she lived, she didn't know until the creditors came after her asking for money," she said.
That's one of the reasons for a push to educate seniors around the state.
Susan Peters is with the Michigan Attorney General's Brigade program. She says, nationwide, 5 million seniors become victims of financial abuse every year - crimes that often include identity theft and fraud.
"There are some steps to take if your identity has been stolen. You want to make sure that you place a fraud alert on your credit reports. You also want to make sure that you contact each of the accounts that have been opened fraudulently or tampered with. Shut them down. Filing a police report is also important," she said.
"People have been wiped out with all of their savings and all of their credit and especially to take someone on the later years of their life, they can't recoup it," said Senator Mike Green, of the 31st district.
Walkley's mother didn't realize how bad her credit was until she tried to buy a car. She couldn't get a loan in her name.
"It totally ruined her credit. She went to buy a car and her credit was trashed and she always paid her bills on time, she had excellent credit but it just totally messed it up. Fortunately, she was able to pay cash for her car," Walkley said.
Peters says the number one way to avoid becoming a target is to pay attention to your credit reports and avoid leaving your personal information out in the open.