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Rip-Off Alert | Protect your credit card information during the holiday shopping season

Before you head out to do holiday shopping, there is some important information you need to know to protect your credit card information. (MGN Online)

Before you head out to do holiday shopping, there is some important information you need to know to protect your credit card information.

Drugstore surveillance photos show Arlinda Weaver purchasing $1,000 worth of gift cards. The problem? The credit card she was using to make that purchase did not belong to her.

The account belonged to Richard Benoit, who got a call from his Detroit bank, asking if he had made $7,000 worth of purchases in the last three days. When he said no, he realized he was a victim of identity theft.

"She wanted to know if I had opened up some charge cards," said Benoit. "I was angry to the point where you know, why? You know, I mean, why do you have to do it?"

The bank contacted postal inspectors who quickly traced the purchases back to Weaver and discovered she had been using Benoit's social security number to get a credit card in his name.

"She submitted an application as if she were that victim. During the application, she included her name as an authorized user," said U.S. Postal Inspector Andrew Brandsasse.

Weaver never explained how she got the name and number, but authorities say it could have been through her job in a healthcare office. Keep this in mind that you have the right to refuse using your social security number on health care forms.

"When you go to the bank and you open an account, that is one thing. When you apply for a loan, that is one thing. But a regular retailer merchant for example, or an online retailer, there is no reason they should ever, ever need your social security number," said Brandsasse.

"Never think that it's going to be somebody else. Because you never know, and the one time that you let your guard down is the one time you're going to get burned," said Benoit.

Weaver was sentenced to three years' probation and ordered to pay $45,000 in restitution. Postal inspectors also recommend enrolling in a credit monitoring service, or at the very least, take advantage of the free yearly credit report offered by major credit agencies.

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