MEDINA, Ohio - Police say thieves are going on a shopping spree with your credit. The 5 on Your Side Investigators first exposed this identity theft problem in January. Now, the problem is growing with reports in Montville Township, Berea, Copley and Avon.
Gretchen Dworznick has a binder full of paperwork detailing the headache that won’t go away.
"There was a woman who had my license and social security number going to Kohl's around the area in St. Louis."
The unauthorized shopping spree in Dworznick’s name is estimated at more than $10,000. Credit cards were sent to Dworznick’s home even though she says she never opened them.
"I was infuriated. I was like how dare you how dare you come into my life take my stuff and try to ruin my good name," Dworznick explained. "I am a big fan of my credit score. To know that she was just destroying it and I couldn't do anything right away to fix it was infuriating. I was just angry."
Even with a paper trail, police are having a tough time piecing together how this happened. There are 18 victims in two Montville Township neighborhoods.
"Our evidence is very quickly lost because the videos at particular retail outlets are only saved for a certain period of time," Sgt. Christopher LaFond said.
Crimes are happening in states and stores across the country. We tracked down almost $200,000 in fraudulent charges for victims in Avon, Berea and Copley.
With so many local communities involved, Montville is pushing the feds for help.
"It's too early to say if they are connected, whether it's the same people or not. Our goal in getting together with those agencies is to try to figure that out," LaFond said.
Two Avon homeowners recently had their IRS tax refunds stolen by thieves. Fraudulent IRS returns are a big problem, and the IRS is struggling to keep up with it.
Protect your identity
While police continue to search for the source of this data breach, NewsChannel5 is in your community helping you protect your good name.
Shredding your documents is one of the best ways to prevent identity theft. Join us this Saturday, April 27 at the following locations:
- Lorain County Community College – 1005 N. Abbe Rd. in Elyria - Lot 8 (Abbe/North Drive)
- Fifth Third Bank Pleasant Valley Branch – 7414 Broadview Rd. - Parma
- Fifth Third Bank in Willowick – 30160 Lakeshore Blvd.
Look for the Shred-it trucks from 8 a.m. until 11 a.m. or until the trucks fill up. We'll destroy up to three boxes or bags of paperwork.
Also, make sure you keep tabs on your credit. You can check it for free once a year through Annual Credit Report. While it's advertised as a once a year free check, there are three credit agencies so if you check one agency every four months you can keep tabs on your credit year-round. Just make sure to access the three credit agencies through Annual Credit Report.
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Consumer Advocate Stories
This is Cyber Monday and financial experts predict as much as two billion dollars will be spent online by millions of shoppers. Businesses right here in northeast Ohio are benefiting from what's known as the "Black Friday of the Internet."
Billions of dollars are expected to fly around the Internet during Cyber Monday which is the World Wide Web's version of Black Friday. Those kinds of numbers have the attention of not only businesses, but criminals, too. There are fake websites, emails, and pop-up, but we have the On Your Side tips to keep your transactions safer.