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Protect yourself from fraudulent calls after your money

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) – The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received more than one million reports of identity theft in 2021 and nearly 10,000 of those reports came from the Memphis area.

Identity thieves steal personal information to buy things with your credit cards or open new cards in your name.

“I got a call when I was going to study the Bible,” said Ralph Thompson, pastor of New Sherron Baptist Church in Byhalia.

He thought the call was from AT&T.

“Yes, because I gave them my password because to access my account they said they needed my four digit password. And I gave them my four digit password and that’s where it all changed,” Thompson said.

It was an expensive ride. The caller was a scammer who used the pastor’s password to hack into his phone, obtain his credit card information and go shopping.

“They bought a drone. They bought perfume. They bought tennis shoes. They bought $9,000 in purchases,” Thompson said.

Daniel Irwin of the Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South said never give out personal information over the phone, especially if you didn’t make the call.

“No one these days is going to ask you for your social security number over the phone. And if they do, that should be a big red flag. And again, if you haven’t initiated the contact, you can’t trust who is on the other end,” Irwin warned.

Other red flags include new accounts being opened without your knowledge. A big clue for identity theft is if you stop receiving certain bills or your bank statement. This happens when scammers change your bank account or credit card address.

“I had to take time off from work so I could go to the police department,” Thompson said.

Thompson prayed for patience and strength after discovering how difficult and time-consuming it was to clear your name and any false accusations.

“It was difficult. It was stressful. There was a lot going on in those days. I was stressed at work and stressed at home. I was trying to make sure nothing else would happen to my credit,” Thompson said.

If you are a victim of identity theft, the first step is to go to identitytheft.gov and report it to the FTC. Then follow the instructions.

“Part of this plan is to contact one of the three credit bureaus to remove your credit to dispute anything that is inaccurate on your credit report. You can also freeze your credit. someone to open anything in your name once your credit has been frozen,” Irwin explained.

The three credit bureaus are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

Irwin said everyone should get into the habit of checking their credit report at least once a year to look for any irregularities.

“The sooner you check your credit and dispute something that’s inaccurate, the easier it will be to resolve it in the long run,” he said.

The Thompson case is now closed. All his passwords have been changed.

“I couldn’t help but scream,” he said. “I couldn’t help but scream because it was a relief once I was done with everything.”

This man of God is much wiser now about the ways of the wicked.

“As far as people are concerned, all we can do is pray and pray that they’ll change their minds and try to go out and make a living like everyone else,” Thompson said.

You can check your credit report for free with each of the three bureaus once a year. TO check your credit report, visit AnnualCreditReport.com.

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