You get a phone call:
“Hello, is this Mrs. Jones?”
“Ma’am, I am Mr. Smith with the YourTown County Court. I’m calling to let you know there has been a warrant issued for your arrest.”
“A warrant? Wait… there must be a mistake.”
“Ma’am, I have a report that states you have failed to appear for jury duty or submit a request to reschedule it. This is an important part of your civic duty, and failure to reply is cause for an arrest warrant to be issued.”
“I never received any notices. If I had, I assure you I would have responded.”
“Let me verify your information and see if we can figure out what happened. Can you confirm your date of birth and Social Security number for me?”
The upset Mrs. Jones answers the “court worker’s” questions, and he agrees to send a new jury duty notice to avoid the warrant.
It was that simple. The caller now has what he needs to steal her identity.
Identity Theft Overview
The fastest growing type of theft today has nothing to do with your jewelry or cash; it has everything to do with your identity. In 2004, according to the Bureau of Justice and Statistics, there were 3.6 million identity theft victims. In 2014 – just 10 years later – there were more than 17.6 million victims, a more than 400 percent increase.
That’s the bad news.
The good news is the number or resource to assist ID-theft victims also has increased.
Most people think of credit cards when it comes to ID theft, but it can also involve utility accounts, cell phone contracts, government benefits, healthcare or insurance information and tax refunds. Thieves may use a phone scam, search your trash or recycling for documents, hack into computer systems or lift information from discarded electronic devices.
Tips for Prevention
There are some simple steps that can reduce your risk of becoming a victim of ID theft.
- Be wary of anyone who calls and asks for personal information. Ask questions in return to verify the authenticity of the caller, or ask for a callback number.
- Monitor your credit. Credit reports provide you with information about credit cards, bank accounts and loans. It is a great way to spot suspicious activities. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com to receive free reports from all three credit bureaus.
- Blue Cross Blue Shield provides its members with free identity protection. Signing up is easy.
- Protect your children. Thieves can open a line of credit with your child’s Social Security number just as easily as they can yours, and because most parents don’t always think to check their child’s credit, thieves can go undetected longer.
- Shred everything that includes personal information. This includes statements, pre-approved notices, invoices and payment/loan information. When in doubt, shred it!
Here are some warning signs of identity theft to look for:
- Is there anything on your credit report that looks unusual? Are there any accounts you didn’t open?
- Do all the itemized purchases on your credit card statement match your receipts or are there unusual transactions?
- Have you received notices about address changes, higher credit limit requests or new lines of credit you didn’t request?
- Are you missing bills or statements?
Uh-Oh! Now What?
Like Mrs. Jones, you’re a victim of identity theft: Now what?
You have the burden of proving it wasn’t you who racked up those charges or took out those loans.
- Immediately declare a Fraud Alert with all three credit bureaus. You’ll have to contact each individually.
- Experian 800-397-3742
- Equifax 800-685-1111
- TransUnion 800-888-4213
- Visit IdentityTheft.gov. Answer their questions about what happened, and you will receive step-by-step instructions on what you need to do and whom you need to contact.
- Contact local law enforcement.
- Concordia Plan Services members also have access to a free one-hour consultation with a fraud resolution specialist through the Cigna EAP. Call 866-726-5267 or log in at CignaBehavioral.com.
The process of recovering from identity theft can be lengthy and time-consuming, but if thieves are successful in mining your data, it’s 100 percent necessary to get the situation resolved.