Source: Better Business Bureau
September 18, 2018 (San Diego) - The number of identity fraud victims in the United States (US) has reached an all time high rising to 16.7 million reported instances in 2018, 8 percent more than in 2017, with loses reaching $16.8 billion according to Javelin Strategy & Research. California is ranked third highest per capita with reported ID theft complaints of 140 per 100k population, according to Experian.
“Identity fraud is a rampant epidemic,” says Matthew Fehling, CEO of BBB Pacific Southwest. “It may take a long time to detect and consumers may not notice what is happening until the scammer has already inflicted substantial damage to their assets, credit and reputation. Our non-profit organization takes pride in providing free seminars for consumers and businesses to take preventative actions against ID theft.” In 2017, BBB Pacific Southwest scam tracker reported 14,760 identity theft frauds and $4,375,386 in monetary loss.
With enough information, scammers can take over individuals and businesses’ identity and commit a wide range of crimes: false applications for loans and credit cards, money withdrawal from bank accounts, tax filing and medical coverage.
While identity theft can happen to anyone, there are steps BBB encourages businesses and consumers to make which will significantly reduce the risk of ID fraud.
Look for unexplained account withdrawals and charges. Review bank account and credit card statements regularly. Know when bills are due; one tip-off for identity theft is when one stops receiving certain bills. This can happen because scammers have changed the address associated with a bank account or credit card. If bills don’t arrive on time, follow up with creditors. Set up automatic alerts on accounts so notification is received every time a transaction is made.
Check credit reports regularly for unauthorized inquiries and fraudulent accounts. In the US, annual credit reports from each of the three major credit bureaus are available at annualcreditreport.com. To find out fairly quickly if something is wrong, space these checks out across the year.
Be careful with personal information. Treat personal information like a valuable commodity. Make sure any document with bank account information, a social security number or other private information is shredded. This includes credit card applications, insurance forms, financial statements, health forms and billing statements. Cut up expired credit and debit cards making sure to cut through the numbers, before disposing of them. Make sure documents containing private information are kept in a safe and secure place.
Be alert to phishing attempts. Scammers are sophisticated and phishing attempts may come via email, text, social media messaging, but the number one reported method of contact is still phone. Be suspicious of any unsolicited communication asking for personal information. Whether it's a supposed tech support call, an offer for a free cruise or a charity plea, they may really be after private information.
To learn more about how consumers and businesses can protect themselves from identity theft, visit BBB’s scam tip page and for information about federal resources to recover from identity theft, visit identitytheft.gov.
About Better Business Bureau Serving Pacific Southwest
For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau (BBB) has been helping people find businesses and charities they can trust. In 2017, people turned to BBB more than 167 million times by checking more than 5.2 million Business Profiles and on 11,000 charities on Charity Reports - all available to the public for free at bbb.org. Incorporated locally in 1938, BBB Serving Pacific Southwest merged on April 1, 2018 and now covers key campuses in Phoenix, San Diego, Orange, Prescott, Yuma and Lake Havasu City. BBB PSW is supported by over 19,000 BBB Accredited Businesses, making it one of the largest BBB nationwide. Businesses that earn BBB Accreditation contractually agree and adhere to high standards of ethical business practices in the marketplace. BBB provides objective expertise and educational programs on topics affecting marketplace trust.