Millions of Americans are affected by Identity Theft each year. Just within the past year we have seen Security Breaches in large department stores, Internet and Email Scams, Social Security/IRS fraud, and most recently the Minnesota Department of Revenue temporarily stopped accepting tax returns that were submitted through Turbo Tax due to a security breach.
When a security breach occurs it leaves many people vulnerable to having their credit/debit card and other personal information stolen and used by the hackers to make fraudulent purchases. Some financial institutions are aware of this type of fraud and will notify you if your information is at risk and issue a new number to protect your account. Other companies have liability clauses in their credit card terms that may protect you from fraud. However, if you do not pay attention to your credit/debit purchases and the fraud goes undetected for a long period of time, the more likely you are to be liable for the debt.
Locking up your home when you are away could probably help protect you from a burglary, but since we have all become potential targets for ID Theft even simple tasks such as taking out the trash is now becoming a huge risk. Along with the possibility of someone digging through your trash for personal information, you could also be a target for ID Theft in the safety of your own home via the internet. Hackers and Scammers are looking for any opportunity to get your personal information.
The IRS has seen an increase in phone and email scams around the country. These scams, among others, are listed on the IRS website to help people become more familiar with what the scams entail and promote awareness of this type of theft. In some cases the scammer will call or email you and pose as an IRS agent. They will tell you that you have been audited and you owe back taxes. There are some that will threaten the victim with penalties and even legal action unless they make a payment by using a preloaded debit card. The emails use the same tactic, and demand that you contact them right away. In the event you do get a phone call or an email do not give out any information. You can contact the IRS directly to find out what your status is, or to report potential fraud.
Reviewing the following information and becoming more educated with scams and fraud will greatly decrease the likelihood of another statistic in Identity Theft.
What the scammer is looking for:
- Driver’s License with name, address, date of birth
- Social Security Number
- Medical ID Cards
- Credit Cards
- Bank Account numbers
What they can do with the information:
- With your driver’s license they will have access to your address, birth date and license number. The scammer could take your number and create a fake ID card with their picture. They could use your name and information to apply for work, give your information on traffic ticket, and damage your driving record. They could even show up at some point to burglarize your home.
- With your Social Security number, they can get a job and file false tax returns, get a new Social Security card saying that they lost the old one, obtain Social Security benefits by filing a claim, apply for welfare benefits, get medical and dental care, obtain passports, access bank account information and drain retirement/savings accounts.
- With your Medical ID, they could have surgery, even cosmetic surgeries, file for Social Security/disability benefits, and file medical insurance claims.
- With your credit cards and bank account information they can open new lines of credit, open new bank accounts, obtain checking/saving account information to purchase a vehicle or a home, buy expensive jewelry, and deplete your savings, checking accounts.
How you can detect/monitor and possibly prevent it:
- Don’t respond to emails that are asking you for personal information such as name or address, birth date, credit card information, or social security numbers. Most places that need this type of information would never ask for it via email.
- Watch where you are using your credit cards. Avoid going onto links that you are being redirected to. Make sure your page is safe before using your credit card information. Never save your credit card information, always log out of an account online.
- Monitor your bank account and go over your monthly statements to be sure there is no suspicious activity.
- Get your annual social security statements and check to be sure that the jobs listed are accurate and that there have been no claims filed or work history you are unaware of.
- Many people are getting into the habit of shredding personal documents that may contain bank account information, social security numbers, and even birth dates instead of throwing it in the trash.
In order to protect yourself from Identity Theft find out more information on what is targeted, what is done with information, and what options you have to prevent it or recover in the event it does happen to you. Some insurance companies offer identity theft protection. Contact your agent to find out more about how to protect your identity.