Private Info Is Everywhere

(WSVN) - We are always told keep your date of birth, social security number and all your private information … private. But one South Florida woman found it all for anyone to see, and that’s when she called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

Yosslyn is a single mother, and that makes her a very careful mother.

Yosslyn Suarez, private info is public: “I try to keep things to myself. I really don’t show people who I really am.”

Which made the chain of events she would face even more troubling, beginning with a call from her credit card company.

Yosslyn Suarez: “‘Did you ask for a new credit card?’ ‘No, I haven’t called.’ They’re like, ‘Ma’am, you have someone that has all your information, from social to date of birth.'”

The scammer then apparently duplicated her debit card.

Yosslyn Suarez: “They were trying to withdraw $500 from my bank account.”

The crooks weren’t finished.

Yosslyn Suarez: “They changed the address to my credit cards to another address.”

Then Yosslyn’s phone stopped working, and she borrowed a friend’s phone.

Yosslyn Suarez: “When I called my phone company, ‘You switched phones. Half an hour ago, you called in, you gave us all your information.'”

Somehow, someone knew everything about her.

Yosslyn Suarez: “Everybody kept telling me, ‘Did you give out your personal information?’ And I kept telling them, ‘No, no.'”

Turns out the crooks didnt have to steal all her private information. They just typed “Yosslyn Suarez” on Google.

Yosslyn Suarez: “All of a sudden, everything started appearing: my phone numbers, my address where I lived at, my date of birth, all my relatives, my kids.”

Yosslyn, a person who likes her privacy, was an open book to any scammer.

Yosslyn Suarez: “It was scary to see all my information online, because there is a lot of crazy people out there.”

Crazy scammer waiting in line, to find out everything about Yosslyn online.

Yosslyn Suarez: “I hope I can try to remove all that from online, make it disappear somehow.”

Well, Howard, can you get your private information off the internet?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “Basically, no. You would be shocked at how much information is in public records, like the clerk’s office, the property appraiser, or when a business gets hacked, the crooks sell the information, and eventually, it all gets out on the web.”

When we Googled Yosslyn’s name, not only did we find out all the information she discovered, we found even more, like her salary. How did that get there? Maybe when she applied for a loan or mortgage, it leaked out.

And finding out more is, sadly, easy. Wanna know where a homeowner lives? What they paid for their property? How much their taxes are? It’s available on the property appraiser’s website. The county clerk’s office has people’s code violations, traffic tickets, civil and criminal cases, on and on, all filled with information about you.

Howard Finkelstein: “Since it’s almost impossible to keep your information private, if someone tries to use it, notify one of the credit reporting bureaus, so they can let people know crooks are trying to steal your identity.”

Yosslyn Suarez: “They ended up putting this thing on my credit.”

Yosslyn’s credit report has been flagged to block a thief from using her information, a step many of us will eventually have to take.

Yosslyn Suarez: “It’s really crazy how you can Google someone and find all their information. Something that you consider private to you, that you yourself don’t even want to give out.”

Now, if you’re worried your private information has been stolen, once a year you are legally entitled to a free copy of your credit report. Get that. Make sure it’s accurate, and look for any attempts to open credit cards or loans in your name.

To get a copy of that free report the link is under this Help Me Howard story.

Feel like your privacy is tangled in a web? Wanna hack your way out of it? Google us. We don’t want any credit. We just want you to cash in.

Free Credit Reports
www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/pdf-0043-free-credit-reports.pdf

Equifax Alerts
(800) 685-1111
Equifax Consumer Fraud Division,
PO Box 740256,
Atlanta, GA 30374

Experian Fraud Center
(888) 397-3742
Experian,
P.O. Box 9554,
Allen, TX 75013

TransUnion Fraud Alert
(888) 909-8872
TransUnion Fraud Victim Assistance Department,
P.O. Box 2000,
Chester, PA 19016

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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