Don't be a victim of identity theft! People whose identities have been stolen can spend months or years – and their hard earned money – cleaning up the mess thieves have made of their good name and their credit record.
In this series we are going to review: What identity theft is, how it happens, what identity thieves do with your information, how you can know when it happens, how you can protect yourself, and steps to take if you are a victim.
Identity Theft: Identity Theft Transcript
Part 1: Identity TheftVideo
Idaho Assistive Technology Project (IATP)
In the course of a busy day, you might write a check at the grocery store, charge tickets to a concert or a ball game, rent a car, or call home on your cell phone. Chances are you don’t give these every day transactions a second thought. But someone else may.
In the 1990’s a new variety of crooks, called identity thieves, began looking at your personal information. Millions of Americans, including Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, and Tiger Woods have been victims. Identity theft is a serious crime and YOU could be next.
Don’t be a victim! People whose identities have been stolen can spend months or years – and their hard earned money – cleaning up the mess thieves have made of their good name and their good credit.
In this presentation we're going to review:
- What is Identity Theft?
- How Does It Happen?
- What Do They Do with the Information?
- What Can You Do To Protect Yourself?
- How Do You Know When It has Happened to You?
- What if You Are a Victim?
The first topic we'll discuss in this module is what identity theft is.
An identity thief STEALS your information, without your knowledge, to commit fraud.
Identity theft increases every year and is the top consumer complaint in the United States.
Nationally, there are over 360,000 identity theft complaints. Often, since we live in a state with a small population, Idahoans feel safe. Unfortunately, there are over 900 identity theft complaints in Idaho.
Now that we know what identity theft is, we can talk about how it happens.
Personal information can be stolen from many places including your purse or wallet, from inside your house, and even at your place of work. Thieves will also steal your mail and go through your garbage to get your credit card and bank statements. They will even use camera cell phones to take pictures of credit cards in lines at grocery stores, banks, and restaurants.
Another shocking way identity thieves steal your information, is to complete a postal service change of address in your name. Your mail is then sent to the address the thief chooses so they can have full access to it.
What are some ways an identity thief tries to get your personal information? An identity thief can call you, claim he is from a survey firm, and ask you a few questions. When the thief has your information, he uses it to call your financial institution pretending to be you or someone with authorized access to your account. Once he or she does this they can obtain even more personal information.
An identity thief might also pose as an authority figure such as a landlord, employer, or someone else who may have a legitimate need, and legal right to, your personal information.
Phishing, also called carding, is a high-tech scam that uses “Spam” to deceive consumers into disclosing their credit card numbers, bank account information, Social Security numbers, passwords, and other sensitive information. These misleading emails tell recipients they need to “update” or “validate” their billing information in order to keep their accounts active, and then direct them to a “look-alike” website of the legitimate businesses, and tricking people into giving their personal information.
Recently, thieves have been calling random hotel rooms impersonating the front desk employees, and stating that the credit card transaction did not go through and to verify your personal information over the phone.
An identity thief may steal your information by…
- Posing as an authority figure and asking you for your information;
- Stealing from your mail or purse;
- Taking pictures of your credit card and I.D. card when you're not looking;
- Calling or sending emails pretending to be a company in need of your information; or
- All of the above
The correct answer is E. All of the above. Identity thieves can be very clever so it's important to be aware of the many ways that they may try to get your information.
In the next section we will talk about what an identity thief does with your personal information and how it may harm you.
Mark was a victim nearly four years ago, when a 20-year-old stole his identity and literally went for a ride. “Lowes, Home Depot, Sears, JC Penny, two cars from Ford, a Harley, a Kawasaki motorcycle," says Harrison, listing off the purchases made in his name. "About $265,000 in four months.“
Identity thieves open new credit card accounts, or take out loans using your name, date of birth, or your Social Security number. When they don’t pay the bills, the delinquent account is reported to your credit report. If the thief changes the mailing address on your credit card account they can run up charges on the account without you noticing because the bills are sent to a different address.
Some thieves even steal personal information and then sell it to other thieves for a profit.
Identity thieves can give the police your name during an arrest. If they are released and don’t show up for the court date, an arrest warrant could be issued in your name.
People whose identity has been stolen spend months or years – and thousands of dollars – cleaning up the mess the thieves have made of their good name and credit record. In the meantime, victims may lose opportunities, be refused loans for education, housing, cars, or even arrested for crimes they didn’t commit.
Identity Theft is a serious matter. There is no reason to be afraid though, because now we are going to explain the ways you can protect yourself from this ever happening.
Some of the ways in which you can protect your personal information is by: only carrying the credit cards you need.
Do not carry your Medicare card with you unless it's the first time you are visiting that particular health care provider. Verbally give them your Social Security Number – the provider can call Cigna, the CMS contractor for Idaho, to verify your Medicare coverage.
You should also make sure to keep a copy of all of your accounts with your company’s contact information.
- Write them down.
- Take a picture.
- Make a copy.
- Keep it in a secure place.
If you are traveling take a list with you and store it in a hotel safe or somewhere else secure. You can also leave a copy with a trusted loved one in case your identity is at risk.
In addition, remove yourself from unwanted mailing lists and pre-approved credit card lists to lessen the chance of your information falling into the wrong hands. Also shred any documents containing your personal information before putting them in the garbage.
When buying groceries or shopping in the store, cover your hand while you're typing in the PIN. Be aware of your surroundings and don’t leave your card sitting out on the counter for others to read.
Don’t give out your personal information unless you're positive it's safe. Remove your phone number from telemarketing lists. If you receive a phone call from a telemarketer hang up immediately.
Be careful giving your information over the phone. Even if the person is posing as an authority, offer to go their office. You have a right to say no to giving your personal information over the phone.
When receiving emails beware of misspellings or errors that would not be in a professional email. If someone is asking for personal information from a financial institution, call their number and ask if it's real. It's better to wait and give your information later than it is to give it to a fraudulent company.
According to Joe McInerney, President of the American Hotel and Lodging Association, hotels will never ask for your information over the phone. If someone calls and asks for your information tell them you will come by the front desk and give it to them there instead. (Money, March, 2007, pg. 24-26.)
Remember to ask questions! Why is your information needed? What is it going to be used for? Who will have access to your information? So on and so on.
This is an example of a phishing scam. Generic greetings like “Dear Sir,” misspellings (note that “advice” is spelled wrong), unrealistic deadlines (this email was sent on December 14), a direct link to an imposter website (note that the email directs you to just click on a link to change your password), and more, are examples of fraudulent emails. If you receive an email like this, report the fraud to the company it's impersonating and delete the email. DO NOT CLICK ON THE LINKS OR RESPOND TO THE EMAIL!
A credit freeze is a very successful option to protect against identity theft.
If you freeze your credit then your credit file cannot be seen by potential third-party creditors or employers conducting background checks unless you give permission. For example, if someone steals your identity and applies for a credit card or loan, your credit report is not released to the credit card company because it's frozen and the theft is stopped.
This added layer of security means that thieves can't establish new credit in your name even if they are able to take over other elements of your identity because they don't have your personal secret identification numbers or passwords.
To find out how to freeze your credit see the additional information page at the end of this webinar.
You can protect yourself by:
- Not giving out your personal information;
- Freezing your credit;
- Checking your bank statement;
- Asking questions about how your information is going to be used; or
- All of the above.
The answer is E: All of the Above! There are many ways to protect yourself from identity theft and the more ways you use the safer you are.
Now, how do you know when you have become a victim of identity theft? Let’s find out!
You may be a victim of identity theft if you…
- Have activity on your credit report that was not caused by something you did – like a job search, shopping for a home or a car, or other financial type activity.
- Are seeing activity on your financial statements that are not yours or appear to be suspicious in nature.
- Stop receiving mail that you typically get every month, especially mail related to your financial accounts like credit card statements, bank statements, or other loan statements.
- Receive credit cards you did not apply for.
- Received calls from debt collectors even though you have no past account due that you are aware of.
- Or if you know you have a good credit rating and suddenly are denied credit.
If you are a victim of identity theft there are steps on the following slides that you can take to get your identity, and anything taken from you, back.
You will need to file a police report immediately and get a copy of the report. The police will usually not have the ability to pursue identity theft crimes, BUT you will probably need to provide copies of the police report to creditors, the credit reporting agencies, etc. to prove that you were the victim.
Use the copies of your account information to call the credit card companies, banks, etc., to report a false change of address or suspicious account activity use. Tell your creditors that you are a victim of identity theft and be sure to stop payments on checks, request new debit cards and credit cards, and change all passwords and PINs.
Under the Electronic Funds Transfer Act, and the Fair Credit Billing Act, your losses are limited to $50 if you report your ATM card, credit card, or debit card lost or stolen within two business days of discovering the loss. If you wait between two and 60 days of discovering the loss, you can be held responsible for up to $500 of what a thief withdraws. If you wait more than 60 days after receiving a bank statement that includes an unauthorized transfer, the law doesn’t require your bank to reimburse you for any losses.
Checking accounts are usually voluntarily covered by banking institutions as long as you notify the bank within a day or two of seeing your unauthorized use.
You need to contact each credit reporting agency and report being a victim of identity theft. The three agencies are Equifax, Trans Union, and Experian.
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, if you think that your file has incorrect information, you’re entitled to an investigation by the credit bureau. Ask the credit reporting agency to block fraudulent information from appearing on your credit report.
Request a free copy of your credit report to check the additional affected accounts. If you are an identity theft victim, you are entitled to an additional free credit report if necessary.
A fraud alert tells users of your credit report that they must take reasonable steps to verify who is applying for credit in your name. Placing a fraud alert can limit your own access to your account, so use this step with caution.
Slide 26: (Interactive)
Let's review what you've learned about if you are victim of identity theft.
True or False? When you are a victim of identity theft, filing a police report is very important. This is TRUE. Even though the police may not be able to directly help, you will need a copy of the police report to prove you are a victim.
[Multiple Choice] You should contact your credit card companies, banks, loan offices, and... a) Report identity theft b) Stop payment on checks c) Request new cards d) Change passwords, or e) All of the above. The answer is E. All of the above. When contacting credit card companies, banks, and loan offices, you need to report identity theft, stop payment on checks, request new cards, and change all passwords that you may have.
In this module you have learned what identity theft is and how it happens. You have gained an understanding of what identity thieves will do with your information. You can now protect yourself from becoming a victim of identity theft as well as recognize if you have become a victim. Lastly, you know what to do if you are a victim of identity theft.
A special thanks to the University of Idaho Extension office for their content expertise.
Slide 28: (Bibliography)
Federal Trade Commission (2013, February). Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book for January-December, 2012. Retrieved from https://www.ftc.gov/reports/consumer-sentinel-network-data-book-january-december-2012.
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (1999, September 2). FDIC Consumer News- Spring 1998. Retrieved from http://www.fdic.gov/consumers/consumer/news/cnsprg98/crook.html.
Federal Trade Commission Identity Theft Victim’s Statement of Rights. Retrieved from https://www.identitytheft.gov/Know-Your-Rights.