13 Jul Identity Theft: It Can Happen to You
How Often Does Identity Theft Happen?
Between May and July of 2017, Equifax, one of the three largest consumer credit reporting agencies, experienced a data breach which compromised the private records of over 147 million Americans, including social security numbers, dates of birth, addresses, and more. Not all victims of a data breach will have their identity stolen, but much of the time that is the unfortunate outcome. According to Identity Force, “In 2019, 14.4 million consumers became victims of identity fraud”, and
“Overall, 33 percent of U.S. adults have experienced identity theft, which is more than twice the global average”.
Sadly, identity thieves are using the current pandemic to their advantage. Consumer Affairs states that “as the threat of COVID-19 increases, cybercriminals are targeting Americans who are working from home. The Federal Trade Commission advises consumers to be wary of cybercriminals exploiting coronavirus fears to steal personally identifiable information (PII). Financial information and medical information is especially sensitive right now.”
In fact, according to AARP, “The FTC saw an astonishing 2,920 percent annual hike in the number of cases in which victims said their information was used to apply for or receive government benefits, such as unemployment compensation” which comes alongside identity fraud numbers “skyrocketing to nearly 1.4 million in 2020, more than double the number a year earlier.”
Anyone can be affected by identity theft, particularly when we talk about data breaches. Scams, however, typically target children and senior adults. Experian “is alerted to 25,000-30,000 fraud cases reported each year and approximately 17% were targeted at children” and “35% of fraud complaints… impacted seniors”.
Types of Identity Theft
Below are some of the common types of identity theft and resulting fraud. Unfortunately, this is not even a comprehensive list of the ways you can be taken advantage of if you are a victim.
- Credit Card Fraud
- Tax Fraud
- Driver’s License Identity Theft
- Phone or Utilities Fraud
- Bank Fraud
- Mail Identity Theft
- Loan Fraud
- Government Benefits Fraud
- Social Security Number Identity Theft
- Online Shopping Fraud
- Medical Identity Theft
What Can I Do?
You may be asking yourself how you can protect yourself. There are some proactive steps you can take to keep your personally identifiable information safe.
- You should protect documents that contain personal information, including social security cards, medicare cards, tax records, and any piece of mail that may have personal information.
- Don’t give out your social security number unless you are sure it’s a legitimate organization asking for it and that they actually need it. Organizations like the IRS and banks will not call, text, or email requesting your social security number.
- You should use unique passwords for each online account you create, and enable two-factor authentication when possible. Change passwords regularly in case they’ve been exposed without your knowledge.
- Screen your phone calls. If you don’t know the number, either don’t answer, or be careful about what information you share if you do decide to answer. The same goes for emails: be wary of clicking on links or attachments in emails unless you’re sure it’s from a reliable source.
- Review your credit card statements regularly to make sure there are no suspicious charges.
- Use a credit monitoring service, which can give advance warning if your credit is changing in unusual ways.
Unfortunately, being vigilant with your own protected information may not be enough. Data breaches can happen to companies that have your information even if you do everything right. So, what do you do if you find yourself the victim of identity theft?
Contact your EAP! Care Plus Solutions’ Identity Theft and Fraud Resolution assistance program assists consumers with fraud-related emergencies and is a comprehensive, affordable expedient process.
Each qualified Member is entitled to a free 60-minute consultation with a highly trained Fraud Resolution Specialist who will conduct emergency response activities to assist Members with restoring their identity and good credit. Each Member receives a free “Emergency Response Kit” and professional coaching that assists with the efforts to dispute fraudulent debts that result from identity theft.
Care Plus Solutions is America’s first EAP and is headquartered in New York and has offices in New Jersey. Over the course of the company’s 46 year history, their brand has remained firmly rooted in the rich history of the EAP field, never losing sight of the fundamental purpose of the EAP; delivering personal and quality services to those in need. It is fair to say that Care Plus Solutions is the gold standard in the field of Employee Assistance.