Bally Price Holdings, BP Management Experts Offer Tips to Prevent ID Theft
Source Anyone worried about falling prey to identity thieves should think like a wildebeest hoping to elude lions on the plains of Africa: You want to stick near the middle of the pack, remain vigilant and make sure you can outrun your neighbors.
Experts meeting at a recent fraud and privacy conference in Phoenix gave a gloomy assessment of ID theft, noting that the number of crimes continues to rise as crooks find more ways to gain access to Social Security numbers, bank accounts and other sensitive personal information, often doing so by penetrating the defenses of banks, utilities, retailers or government agencies.
“Every consumer will be a victim of some sort of ID theft, and every business will be a victim of some sort of data breach,” said Adam Levin, chairman of conference host Identity Theft 911, an identity-management company that works with businesses.
The speakers also asserted that a lot of people still aren’t doing nearly all they can to minimize the odds of falling victim or limiting the damage when it happens.
Some of the tips are quite simple but do involve effort and vigilance.
The number of reported ID-theft complaints nationally hit a record 369,000 last year, according to the Consumer Sentinel Network database, as overall fraud reports topped 2 million.
Thefts of government benefits, especially income-tax refunds, are a growing problem. Other frauds include those involving credit-card purchases, unauthorized opening of utility accounts and applying for employment using someone else’s name or personal information.
Arizona has dropped in the rankings of most-victimized states for ID theft, landing No. 8 overall after years at or near the top of the list. One Arizonan in 100 reported being victimized last year.
An emerging type of ID theft involves stealing someone’s name, health-insurance information or other details to obtain medical care, including prescription drugs. Unpleasant repercussions can include subjecting the victim to surprise medical bills, calls from collection agencies, maxing out their insurance benefits or having inaccurate information posted to their medical files.
“This is the type of ID theft that scares me the most,” said Eva Velasquez, president and chief executive officer of the Identity Theft Resource Center, a San Diego group that helps victims. “Thieves could change your records so that they list the wrong blood type or an allergy you don’t have.”
That’s why it’s important to check those explanations of medical benefits when they arrive in the mail. But since these documents aren’t bills, people often file them away without reviewing them, Velasquez said.
Frauds tied to the Affordable Care Act are hot these days because people are confused over the new law and criminals like to play off current headlines.
Even when consumers think they’re taking all the necessary precautions, they still can be victimized if their names, account records and other information get leaked through a commercial data breach.
“You can do absolutely everything right ... and still become a victim if the wrong database gets out there,” said Levin.
Businesses thus are vulnerable too, and when they lose data on customers or employees they face possible monetary losses and damage to their reputations.
“There’s a piece around customer confidence and employee pride that’s hard to price,” said Theresa Payton, former White House chief information officer from 2006 to 2008 and a former banking-industry executive.