Identity Theft; Will You Be the Next Victim?

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March 6, 2014 by Lisa Brammer

About a year ago the movie “Identity Thief” was playing in theatres. It’s a comedy starring Jason Bateman as Sandy Bigelow Patterson, the unfortunate victim of identity theft. Even though the movie is humorous with plenty of laughs it does a pretty good job of portraying the kinds of horror that can come your way if your identity is stolen.

According to the study released last month by Javelin Strategy & Research, there were over 13 million victims of identity fraud in 2013. This is an increase of about 500,000 over 2012. Data breaches also became more harmful in 2013. Thirty-three percent of people who received a data-breach notification letter actually became a victim of identity fraud. But, there is good news, financial institutions, identity theft protection providers, and consumers themselves have gotten more diligent in their efforts to mitigate these thefts so the amount of money stolen in 2013 actually decreased by $3 billion to $18 billion. According to the report, 2009 was the worst year on record with 13.9 million victims and a whopping $32 billion stolen.

The study also revealed that account takeover fraud hit a new record high for the second year in a row and accounted for 28 percent of all identity fraud. This type of theft usually occurs when a fraudster obtains some key personal information such as your account and social security number. They then change the official mailing address to take-over your account. This allows them the opportunity to conduct transactions without your knowledge.

According to a survey conducted by the Identity Theft Resource Center, medical-related identity theft led the pack and accounted for 43 percent of all identity thefts reported in the United States in 2013. It surpassed other types of identity fraud involving stolen banking and finance, military and government, or education information.

Medical identity fraud takes place when someone’s personal information, such as name, address, date of birth, and Social Security number are used to get medical treatment, insurance reimbursements, prescription drugs, or medical devices.
Victims of medical identity theft not only suffer the financial ramifications, but often have the fraudster’s information entwined within their own medical record making it almost impossible to isolate the bogus information from their own.

The Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) reported that more than 7 million patient health care records were breached in 2013, taking second place to the 10.8 million breaches reported in 2011.

With modern technology and the data-world we live in identity theft is on the rise, but there are things you can do to help stop this debilitating crime. Here are a few tips:

• Don’t carry your Social Security card in your purse or wallet and only give it out when absolutely necessary.
• Ask for your receipts even if the transaction was incorrect. Compare receipts with account transactions and then look for unauthorized purchases. Shred all receipts and expired credit cards to prevent dumpster-divers from getting your information.
• Collect your mail quickly and shred all credit offers.
• Protect your PINs. Block numbers you are typing with your free hand so people cannot look over your shoulder. Never write them down on a slip of paper and store in your wallet or in a conspicuous place.
• Install firewalls and virus detection software on your computer.
• Make sure your home wireless network is security protected
• Don’t do transactions that require personal information when utilizing public networks.
• Don’t respond to unsolicited requests for personal information anywhere.

Remember:

Banks and credit card companies will NOT email you to verify your information. The IRS will NOT perform an electronic audit. When called for jury duty, the clerk will NOT ask for your social security number.

These are all scams people use to get your personal information. You must always be diligent and alert because these scams are getting more and more sophisticated. There is an email going around right now that appears to be an error-message from Netflix which states your account has been suspended. When you call the 1-800 number listed, you actually talk to a person who will try and get your personal information. If you give them the number (on the error message) in the email you are enabling them to remotely access your computer and all the information stored on it!

The Federal Trade Commission is the nation’s consumer protection agency. If you find you are a victim of identity fraud, go to their website at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/feature-0014-identity-theft. There are steps you can follow to limit the harm caused by this theft.

Founded in 1950, United Credit Service, Inc. is a full service revenue cycle management and debt collection agency in Wisconsin providing highly effective, customized one on one management and recovery solutions for our business partners. We offer pre-service collection solutions as well as traditional back-end collections. Visit our website at http://www.unitedcreditservice.com or call 877-723-2902.

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