This morning my father in law came to me frantically seeking help. He was rightly concerned as his 100-year-old mother in law’s checking account was hacked.
(We’re multi generational - my wife and I are part of the sandwich generation- caring for live-in elderly family and a young child…. That’s part of another story.)
He excitedly shared how there was a $670 fraudulent withdrawal from her account from someone in France. The stress was accentuated by the fact that she only had $902 in her account. As a Certified Identity Theft Risk Management Specialist (CITRMS), I walked him through steps to resolve the issue and precautions to consider for the future. Just as importantly, I helped him to be calm. When personal accounts are hacked, it can feel like a complete violation of trust.
The elderly are particularly vulnerable to #scams Identity fraud, and general theft. Though everyone is at risk and, unfortunately, ID Theft is fairly common. According to a 2018 survey by The Harris Poll, approximately 60 million Americans have been affected by Identity Theft. Every year the Federal Trade Commission publishes data on consumer complaints. Identity Theft has consistently been one of the top 5 complaints- right up there with scams, debt collection, and taxes! You know how much people complain about taxes and debt collection.
The FTC is a Federal agency tasked with consumer protection. Their #1 goal is to, “Protect #consumers from unfair and deceptive practices in the marketplace.” I recommend the following websites for additional help and information: www.ftc.gov and https://www.identitytheft.gov/
Identity Theft vs Fraud
Though terms are often used interchangeably, ID Theft is when someone steals personal identifying information, eg. license, social security number, account numbers, etc. ID Fraud is when the stolen information is used to commit fraud or illegally deceive someone.
Some laws protect us but we must take action quickly. For instance, the Electronic Funds Transfer Act limits our liability, however we must report the theft ASAP:
- Within two business days of discovery, your losses are limited to $50
- Within 60 days to report after the unauthorized electronic fund transfer appears on your statement, you could lose up to $500 of what the thief withdraws
- More than 60 days to report you could lose all the money that was taken from your account
The losses from Identity Theft aren’t limited to fraudulent charges or loss of money. They can be unlimited. I’ve helped clients who have had to resolve criminal charges because someone stole their personal identification and were arrested.
If you’re a victim, don’t delay in taking the following steps:
- Close the accounts that you know, or believe, have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
- Put a hold on all affected accounts
- Request new cards with new account numbers
- Request new UNIQUE password and pin number
- Complete Fraudulent Account Statement
-File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
Be sure to keep all documentation. When you report the theft to the FTC you can print Identity Theft Affidavit. This can be useful in submitting additional reports to the police or for each affected account.
Toll-free Helpline 1-877-ID-THEFT (1-877-438-4338)
You may need a police report documenting the #fraud to resolve individual account issues.
-File a report with your local police. To make the police report easier, be sure to:
- Bring your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit
- Attach the affidavit to the police report
-Consider placing an initial fraud alert on your credit reports and review your credit reports.
To review your free credit report, go to www.annualcreditreport.com
To report the fraud and receive assistance from all 3 credit bureaus:
Fraud Victim Assistance
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
1-800-EXPERIAN (397-3742) www.experian.com
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
Ben Franklin’s advice is relevant when it comes to ID Theft, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
-Monitor account statements and the explanation of benefits when they’re sent. Don’t feel shy about asking questions if there’s something you don’t understand. There may be a mistake or there could be fraud. Either way you don’t want it to cost you.
-Shred all paper with account and sensitive information- cross cut shredders are good- micro shredders are better
-Only purchase items on a secured Internet site
-Place difficult to guess passwords on accounts. The United States Department of Homeland Security recommends the following as best practices:
Use multi-factor authentication when available.
Use different passwords on different systems and accounts.
Don't use passwords that are based on personal information that can be easily accessed or guessed.
Use the longest password or passphrase permissible by each password system.
Don't use words that can be found in any dictionary of any language.
For more password information visit: https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/tips/ST04-002
This is a brief list for prevention- let’s always keep learning so we can help those we love!