DeWine Issues Update on Identity Theft Unit
COLUMBUS —Ahead of Data Privacy Day (January 28), Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine issued an update on his office’s Identity Theft Unit, which helps victims correct the effects of identity theft.
In 2016, the Ohio Attorney General’s Identity Theft Unit received 1,057 complaints and helped victims clear more than $890,000 in fraudulent charges, according to complaint information.
“Identity theft can cause significant problems for people, and it can be difficult for individuals to correct those problems on their own,” Attorney General DeWine said. “Our goal is to help people repair the damage caused by identity theft so they can move on with their lives.”
Through the Identity Theft Unit, individuals can seek assistance from advocates who work on the victim’s behalf to contact credit reporting agencies, creditors, collectors, and other organizations that may have information resulting from the identity theft. (A self-help option also is available for individuals who prefer to work on their own.)
In one case, the Identity Theft Unit helped an Ohio man correct an erroneous medical debt that totaled more than $200,000. The man discovered he was being held responsible to pay for out-of-state surgeries he never had. The Identity Theft Unit worked with the hospital to prove the man had never had the surgeries in question and to clear the debt from his name.
Because children in the foster care system may be especially vulnerable to identity theft, Attorney General DeWine also offers the Identity Theft Unit’s assistance to help correct errors discovered on the credit reports of foster youth. In 2016, the Identity Theft Unit resolved 22 complaints involving minors in foster care.
Individuals can help avoid identity theft and protect their personal information by following steps including:
- Carry only the number of credit cards that you need for a specific outing. Keep your Social Security card in a safe place, not in your wallet or purse.
- Don’t give out your personal information unless you initiate the contact.
- If you are doing business online, make sure the website is secure and that your anti-virus, firewall, and security applications are up-to-date.
- Shred any documents that contain personal information before you dispose of them.
- Keep copies of credit cards (front and back) in a safe place so you will be able to call and cancel them if they are stolen.
- Check your credit history at least once a year using www.AnnualCreditReport.com, where you can access a free copy of your credit report once a year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. If you notice any suspicious activity, contact the appropriate credit reporting agency immediately.
- Review your medical, bank, and credit card statements thoroughly upon receipt and notify the provider or institution right away if you find any problems.
- Consider applying a credit freeze in your name and your child’s name. A credit freeze makes it harder for an imposter to open accounts using your personal information. A new state law allows parents and guardians to freeze their child’s credit record.
Attorney General DeWine established the Identity Theft Unit in 2012. The unit is a division of the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section.
Individuals who want to learn more or file an identity theft complaint should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioProtects.org or 800-282-0515.
Two Arrested in Pike County Drug Investigation
PEEBLES Ohio — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader announced two arrests in connection with an ongoing drug investigation in Pike County.
Last night, authorities arrested Josh Rhoden, 38, on a felony charge of drug trafficking and John McJunkin, 63, on a felony charge of possession of drugs.
Search warrants were served on both suspects’ homes on Grassy Fork Road in Peebles where more than $8,000 in cash was seized, along with an estimated $7,700 in prescription pills, nine guns, and a small amount of marijuana.
Although evidence in this case was discovered over the course of the ongoing investigation into last year’s killings of eight members of the Rhoden family, this case is unrelated to the homicides.
The case is under investigation by the Pike County Sheriff’s Office and Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, in coordination with Pickaway County Sheriff Robert Radcliff, Ross County Sheriff George Lavender Jr., and the U.S. 23 Pipeline Major Crimes Task Force.
Assistance was also provided by the Drug Enforcement Administration and Pike County Probation Department.
Authorities continue to request that anyone with information on the ongoing homicide investigation call 1-855-BCI-OHIO (224-6446) or the Pike County Sheriff’s Office at 740-947-2111.
Attorney General and Greene County Sheriff Announce Arrests of Ohio Brothers in Double Homicide Near Yellow Springs
XENIA —Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine joined Greene County Sheriff Gene Fischer to announce the arrests of two Ohio brothers in connection with a recent double homicide in Miami Township (Greene County) near Yellow Springs. Dustin Merrick, 25, of Xenia, has been charged with two counts of aggravated murder. Bret Merrick, 24, of Miami Township (Montgomery County), has been charged with two counts of complicity to aggravated murder, two counts of complicity to aggravated burglary, and one count of felonious assault.
Sheriff Fischer requested the assistance of the Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) after William “Skip” Brown and Sherri Mendenhall were discovered dead with gunshot wounds near Yellow Springs on January 15 at a home on East Enon Road. Authorities served two search warrants last night, including one at Dustin Merrick’s Xenia home on Parnell Drive and another at Bret Merrick’s home on Eagle Ridge Drive in Montgomery County’s Miami Township.
“This is a great tragedy for the Brown and Mendenhall families as well as the Yellow Springs community,” said Attorney General Mike DeWine. “The arrests are the result of old-fashioned police work and modern forensics. This has been a great team effort with twenty of our BCI criminal analysts, agents – from crime scene, investigations, and cyber units – and scientists in the BCI laboratory assisting Greene County Sheriff Fischer and his team.”
“Less than 10 days after the murders we are announcing these arrests,” said Sheriff Gene Fischer. “I want to thank many law enforcement departments, especially the Attorney General’s Office, which provided huge technical and forensic assistance, a big help in solving this case. We also appreciate tips that came in from the community.”
Besides the Greene County Sheriff’s Office and BCI, many agencies have been involved in the investigation including the Greene County Regional SWAT Team, Greene County ACE Task Force, Xenia Police Department, Yellow Springs Police Department, Dayton Police Department, and Miami Township (Montgomery County) Police Department.
If you have any information you think could help investigators in this case, please call the Greene County Sheriff’s Office at 937-562-4815 or BCI at 855-BCI-OHIO.
Attorney General DeWine Seeks Consumer Restitution from Youngstown-Area Contractor for Failure to Deliver
YOUNGSTOWN —Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced a lawsuit against a home improvement contractor accused of failing to deliver promised services to northeast Ohio consumers.
The lawsuit accuses Anthony J. Luttrell and Falcon General Contractors LLC of violating Ohio’s Consumer Sales Practices Act. In the lawsuit, the Attorney General seeks reimbursement for affected consumers and an injunction to prevent further violations.
According to the lawsuit, Luttrell operated Falcon General Contractors from 5547 Mahoning Ave., Suite 335, in Austintown before closing it. He offered large home improvement projects, such as house additions, room renovations, and porch or deck installations.
Consumers complained that they paid Falcon for work that was never completed and that their money was not returned. Seven complaints were filed with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office against Falcon. Reported losses total more than $40,000.
The lawsuit, filed in the Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, accuses Luttrell and Falcon of failure to deliver and performing substandard work.
To help consumers avoid home improvement problems, Attorney General DeWine offered the following recommendations:
- Research a company before making any payments. Ask for recommendations, and talk to past customers about their experiences. Search for complaints on file with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office or Better Business Bureau. Find out if the business is registered with the Ohio Secretary of State. Conduct an internet search with the name of the business and words like “reviews” or “complaints.” Be skeptical if you find no information. Some operators change business names regularly to make it harder for consumers to detect their record of shoddy work.
- Get multiple estimates. For a large job, consider contacting at least three different businesses before making a final selection. Keep in mind that the company that gives you the lowest estimate may not necessarily deliver the best results.
- Check your cancellation rights. If a home improvement contractor does not have a fixed place of business or comes to your door to offer services, you may be entitled to a three-day right to cancel the contract under Ohio’s Home Solicitation Sales Act. Make sure you receive detailed written information about your cancellation rights.
- Make sure verbal promises are put in writing. Get a detailed written contract including any verbal claims the contractor makes and other important details, such as the estimated cost of the work, the expected start and end dates, and the names of the individuals who will perform the services.
- Be wary of requests for large down payments. It’s reasonable for a contractor to require a down payment, but be skeptical if you’re asked to make a large down payment (such as half or more of the total cost) before any work begins. If possible, pay in increments as the work is completed.
A copy of the lawsuit is available on the Ohio Attorney General’s website.
Consumers who suspect an unfair or deceptive sales practice should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioProtects.org or 800-282-0515.