The Rising Concern of Identity Theft (and How to Protect Yourself)

“2016 will be remembered as a banner year for fraudsters, as numerous measures of identity fraud reached new heights.” ( USA Today)

Unfortunately, 2017 will likely be remembered in the same way for multiple reasons. Here are just three of them.

IRS Refunds

Yes, the IRS is still dealing with identity theft issues where thieves find ways to steal IRS refunds, according to a March 2017 article by Accounting Today. Extra authentication procedures have been implemented, along with filters to block criminal activity, but one CPA called Accounting Today recently with the news that multiple clients of his had received notifications of their tax refunds being claimed by another person. Even though the IRS “stopped more than $6.5 billion in fraudulent refunds on 969,000 tax returns confirmed to have been filed by identity thieves . . . identity theft continues to be a major threat.”

Online Shopping

Online shopping is so convenient. You find what you want and pay for it quickly and easily—and you don’t even need to physically present a credit card to anyone. Unfortunately, this ease of use also makes it much easier for thieves who have captured your account number to do the same, putting their purchases on your account. In fact, card-not-present fraud has increased more than any other kind of identity theft according to an article by CNBC.com. Criminals are using stolen login information in increasing numbers and also setting up fraudulent accounts in unsuspecting consumers’ names more and much more.

All told, 15.4 million people were identity theft victims in 2016 alone, the highest figure recorded to date, with $16 billion stolen in this way.

Fraud Kits

Yes, there are actually fraud kits that people can purchase and use with little to no previous experience. Once in the hands of someone who is searching for easy ways to get cash, they become a dangerous tool that can make life “more miserable for consumers.” Plus, the USA Today article quotes an expert who believes there are “far more criminals” today, including ones who are willing to work “double time.” This means that, as theft and fraud prevention becomes more effective, the thieves are finding new ways to commit fraud.

Preventative Measures

It’s easy to become complacent about passwords, a fact well known by online predators. Make sure that you create complex passwords, ones that you don’t repeat from account to account. A thief who breaks into one of your accounts will almost certainly see if it works on other accounts as well. You can use  password generators to create unique, hard-to-guess passwords.

Also set up alerts with your banks and credit card issuers, asking to be notified if a transaction seems suspicious because of the dollar amount spent, the location of the purchase (perhaps overseas), or other reasons. Regularly monitor your credit reports, too, to ensure nothing incorrect is showing up.

Identity Defender™ Identity Theft Solution

It can feel like a full-time job to keep up with all the new ways you need to protect your identity and it can take up to five years to resolve credit issues that arise from identity theft. Plus identity theft can cost more than $1,000 each time it happens. That’s why we created Identity Defender™, an enhancement to our legal benefits plans that helps you at the very start of an identity theft crisis. You will have the expertise and support of a fraud resolution advisor, a professional who is trained in evaluating the situation and determining what needs to be done to address the emergency.

Steps include (but are not limited to):

  • Placing fraud alerts, putting a temporary freeze on credit, and filing documents on your behalf, including affidavits
  • 24/7/365 monitoring that provides current alerts about suspicious activity occurring in your name and a risk alert score
  • Unlimited access to fraud resolution specialists
  • Free telephone consultation (60 minutes) with a financial counselor to help you  rebuild your credit
  • Identity theft expense reimbursement up to $25,000 for the primary member and his or her spouse
  • Lost purse/wallet benefits

Secure peace of mind with Identity Defender™ for your employees.  Contact us online with questions or to get started, or call 1-800-356-LAWS (5297) today.