Allow Residents to Protect Their Families From Identity Theft

Generic FamilyIdentity theft and credit fraud wreak havoc on millions of lives every year, impacting victims with legal fees and time spent trying to clear their name.

More than 11 million Americans in 2010 became victims of identity fraud, costing them $54 billion and countless hours of frustration.

New account origination is a popular form of identity fraud in which thieves open a line of credit in a victim’s name and make high-value purchases as quickly as possible. Responsibility for this fraud falls on the bank or the store, but it affects us all in the form of higher store prices or higher credit card interest rates.

The most effective way someone can prevent this fraud is to place a freeze on their credit report, which blocks the issuing of new credit.

Michigan is one of only two states without a credit freeze law in place.

The state Senate recently approved my bill to change that and require the three major credit reporting agencies to allow Michigan residents to place a security freeze on their credit information. Since a Carnegie Mellon University study showed that children are 51 times more likely to become victims of identity theft than their parents, residents would also be able to protect their children’s credit.

So legitimate applications for credit or services can be processed, Senate Bill 174 would allow a consumer to temporarily lift the freeze when applying for credit by contacting the reporting bureau and providing a secure PIN number.

My goal is to ensure that every Southwest Michigan consumer has the ability to protect themselves and their families from fraud. With Senate passage of this bill, we are one step closer to making that a reality.

Protect Yourself this Holiday Season

The holiday season is upon us.  Unfortunately, with it come scam artists looking to take advantage of your Christmas spirit.

Many people shop online. It offers the world at a keystroke, but also invites risk. Southwest Michigan families can reduce their risk by following a few tips:

• Never give out your Social Security number. It is the most important thing to protect, since it can be used to steal your identity;

• Only shop secure websites of reputable merchants you are familiar with, or check them on the Better Business Bureau’s site at;

• Print and keep all receipts; and

• Watch for high shipping charges.

Shopping online can be a convenient way to save time and money. But remember the old advice: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Gift cards are another item to keep your eye on. Thankfully Michigan enacted laws to protect gift card buyers and recipients. I am proud we acted to ensure customers what they paid for from their gift cards.

I still recommend a few guidelines for gift cards.

First, buy cards from a reliable source for a financially sound retailer.

Read the fine print, especially concerning restrictions, expiration dates and fees.

And ask for an extra receipt for you to include with the card – in case there is an error when the recipient uses it.

Have a safe and secure holiday shopping season. Maybe I’ll see you as I finish up my own Christmas shopping.

Avoid Holiday Scams

November 25, 2010

It’s the most wonderful time of year for scam artists and identity thieves. With the holiday shopping season starting, people should be on the look-out for fraud and scams. Protect yourself from credit card and ID theft this Christmas season.

Steps consumers should take to protect against identity theft include:

-Shred financial documents and paperwork with personal information before discarding them.

-Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet or write it on a check.  Give it out only if absolutely necessary.

-Never give out personal information on the phone, through the mail or over the Internet unless you know who you are dealing with. Potential thieves will claim to be associated with your bank or credit card company in order to steal your identity.

-Be aware of links sent in unsolicited E-mails, instead type in a web address you know or use firewalls, anti-spyware and anti-virus software to protect your computer.

The Michigan Attorney General’s website provides consumer alerts or information about the most recent or widespread frauds and scams.  You can also file a complaint or report identity theft this holiday season with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by calling 877-765-8388 or visit

Best wishes this holiday season and happy shopping!

Proos Looks into Pre-paid Funeral Scams


Jessie Rymers

August 20, 2010

A southwest Michigan lawmaker is taking action after customers of a Berrien Springs were hit in an embezzlement scam.

In light of charges the Legacy Family Funeral Home bilked money from a pre-paid funeral account, today State Rep. John Proos called on the director of the state’s Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth.

He asked him to review the policies in place for registering a monitoring Michigan funeral homes.

In their talks, the agency also laid out some tips for families to protect themselves from pre-paid funeral scams.