Criminals, buying Christmas gifts with YOUR money! How to protect yourself during the holidays

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DETROIT — It's time to get all those gifts on your holiday lists, but if you aren't careful, you may be buying gifts for people that aren't on it. Criminals are doing everything they can steal your identity and make purchases with your hard-earned cash.

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Surveillance photos capture Arlinda Weaver buying gift cards with someone else's credit card.

Drug store surveillance cameras captured photos of Arlinda Weaver purchasing $1,000 worth of gift cards. Weaver made that purchase with a credit card that did not belong to her.

The account belonged to Richard Benoit. Benoit got a call from his bank asking if he had made $7,000 worth of purchases in the last three days. He had not made any purchases and that's when Benoit realized he was a victim of identity theft.

"I was angry to the point where you know, why? You know? I mean, why do you have to do it?" Benoit said.

Bank officials 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.

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Richard Benoit found out he was a victim of identity theft after getting a call from his bank.

"She submitted an application as if she were that victim.  During the application, she included her name as an authorized user," explained 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, you have a right to refuse using your social security number on healthcare 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," Brandsasse said.

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

Weaver was sentenced to three years probation and ordered to pay $45,000 in restitution.

If you're concerned about identity theft try enrolling in a credit monitoring service or, at the very least, take advantage of the free yearly credit report offered by the major credit agencies.

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