At the Feb. 4 meeting of the McLean Woman’s Club, Officer Tom Polhemus, an investigator with the Financial Crimes Unit of the Fairfax County Police Department, spoke to the group about sophisticated schemes for stealing personal financial data and recommended ways to avoid being targeted. Officer Polhemus is one of 12 investigators in the Financial Crimes Unit, which handles some 4,500 fraud reports per year, he said.
Among his recommendations were: Review credit reports annually to protect against identify theft (he suggested www.annualcreditreport.com for this purpose), opt out of receiving pre-approved credit applications by calling 1-888-567-8688, monitor credit card and bank accounts online, use electronic banking if possible, mail bill payments from postal facilities rather than from home and review bank statements for unauthorized debits. Regarding the latter, Polhemus noted that, by law, a bank must make restitution for fraud if the account holder reports it within 60 days.
He also cautioned against using credit cards in restaurants, as some establishments in Fairfax County have been detected using card readers that send data to unauthorized as well as to authorized recipients. Polhemus suggested that before donating to a charity it can be checked at www.charitynavigator.org. Finally, identity theft victims should get a police report to that effect and secure a 7-year fraud alert or a credit freeze on their accounts.
— Laura Sheridan