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 CHICAGO, April 1 /PRNewswire/ -- Is credit fraud a serious problem? One 16-year-old high school student in New York managed to obtain $300,000 in cash and credit cards before police caught up with him. Soon after serving less than a year behind bars, he was driving a $37,000 sports car and got another $175,000 in cash by fraud.
 While police agencies around the country are trying to stop this youth and others like him, Trans Union Corp. has developed a unique program to help the innocent victims of fraud ensure that their hard- earned credit history is not destroyed.
 Trans Union's Fraud Victim Assistance Division ("FVAD") is designed to assist both consumers and companies that issue credit. Staffed by trained specialists devoted strictly to fraud detection, FVAD was organized in 1991 and officially launched in March 1992 in response to what Trans Union and law enforcement officials see as an explosion of credit fraud.
 "In the last two years, the problem (of credit fraud) has gotten out of hand," said Werner Raes, detective in the economic crimes detail of the Anaheim (Calif.) police department. The extent of the fraud, according to several major credit card companies, may run in the billions of dollars.
 Organized Credit Fraud: Trashing
 In some parts of the country, credit fraud is an organized business with a decidedly violent side.
 "Trash diggers are almost like the Mafia," according to Raes. "They know the good places to look for discarded credit applications and other documents that contain identification information. They divide the territory and will kill the person who digs in their garbage cans."
 FVAD Builds Comprehensive Credit Files
 To help combat the problem, Trans Union is building extensive files on credit fraud. When FVAD staff members learn of credit fraud, they incorporate the data into the industry's largest and most complete file of credit fraud-indicative information, which contains information from a broad network of institutions across the country, including local and national banks, savings and loans, retailers, credit fraud associations, local and national law enforcement groups, and Trans Union's own consumer relations centers.
 Credit Ratings In Danger
 While individual consumers are not financially responsible when a third party fraudulently obtains credit in their name, the fraudulent transactions can affect the individual's credit record until the criminal transactions are found, verified and deleted.
 "Working independently, it could take fraud victims months to restore their good credit rating," said Diane Terry, Trans Union's West Coast regional consumer relations and FVAD manager. "We can alert these victims to the crime, help them make connections with credit grantors to stop the fraud, and cut the financial losses."
 While financial losses are absorbed by credit grantors, consumers pay the bill indirectly in the form of higher fees and interest rates.
 "We'll talk the fraud victim through the process," said Terry. "Credit grantors follow specific procedures and need certain information to cancel accounts. We want to make the process quicker and easier so we can stop the fraudulent activity as soon as it's detected."
 Trans Union's FVAD can be reached by calling 714-870-5565.
 -0- 4/1/92
 /CONTACT: Liz Eischeid of Trans Union, 312-466-7794/ CO: Trans Union Corp. ST: Illinois IN: FIN SU:

TQ -- NY093 -- 4055 04/01/92 16:41 EST
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Date:Apr 1, 1992

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