H-SANTA MARIA

Nov 30, 2011 11:53 PM by Monica Quintero

Identity theft on the rise

The holiday shopping season is in full swing and it's a good reminder to keep close tabs on your credit cards so you don't become the victim of identity theft. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics just released some new information. It shows identity theft rose by 33 percent from 2005 to 2010 nationally. The stats also show U.S. households experienced about $13.3 billion in direct financial losses due to identity theft last year.

The results of the study were not a surprise to local prosecutors and police who deal a lot with that kind of crime. According to the Santa Barbara County Senior Deputy District Attorney Jerry Lulejian, one of the best ways to not become an identity theft victim is to never use your debit card online. He says if you are a victim of fraud involving your debit card, the banks won't give you your money back. However, there is protection if the crime involves credit cards. "Immediately put a written rejection of that charge to the credit card," said Lulejian. "Don't do it over the phone because it won't be accepted. You have 60 days basically to get that in."

Shoppers also gave us their perspectives on credit cards and identity theft. "I don't own any credit cards for that reason, I just pay with cash," said Gabby Rodriguez, Nipomo Resident. Santa Maria resident, Gina Martin, said, "I just try to use one single credit card only to do any online shopping so that it eliminates any confusion."

Meanwhile, to keep the shoppers themselves safe at Santa Maria Town Center Mall extra security guards have been added. "We beefed up our security now through the end of the year," said Amber Lease, PR Marketing Director. "We about double the staffing so you should at all times see at least three security members." "If you're like me, I work hard for my money and I just want to make sure that all my stuff is secure," said Martin. "Just be extra careful."

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