Protect Your Money! Protect Your Credit!
This post is the last in a series of posts focused on Identity Theft, which included:
- How to Fix Your Credit Report (and Identity Theft)
- Identity Theft: Your State Attorney General’s Website and Toolkits
Postal Inspector Interview
The following is the interview I conducted with U.S. Postal Inspector J. Krafels concerning identity theft. As a federal law enforcement officer for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, J. Krafels has four years experience investigating mail theft, identity theft, fraud, and other crimes. Here’s the interview:
PT: What would you say to the person that says “I don’t need to worry about identity theft because it will never happen to me”?
JK: I thought the same thing, then of course at all times it happened to me while on assignment in Washington, DC. With over 9 million victims a year, it can affect everyone from young to old, rich to poor. Once they have stolen your identity, there is no stopping what they can do in terms of getting credit cards, lines of credit, and online accounts. It doesn’t cost you one penny to check your credit report once a year to make sure you have not been victimized; however, if you don’t and become victimized, it can cost you time and money trying to get everything canceled and back to normal.
PT: What are the top emerging ID theft schemes you are seeing today?
JK: Account takeovers and fraudulent accounts are the top two we are working. Account takeover is where they hack in to your existing credit accounts and add themselves or a fictitious person, order a new card on your account, and start charging. Fraudulent Account is just that, they steal your identity and then use it to get fraudulent credit cards under your name. You find out after they have maxed out the card and the monthly bill comes to your mailbox.
PT: Most people know that their credit card company or bank is insured to be able to refund any losses from identity theft. What type of ID theft could result in an actual loss to the victim?
JK: Most of the ID theft is not going to cost the victim anything but their time to get everything straightened out. Depending on the amount of theft which has occurred, this could be a huge amount of time and energy spent clearing your name. However, there are clauses on most credit cards which state they can hold you liable for up to $50 or $100 dollars, although this does not usually happen with the big name cards.
PT: What are the top identity fraud schemes that the average person is likely to encounter?
JK: Here’s a quick list of the top ID theft schemes:
- Unknown caller posing as a bank employee trying to verify a SSN and mother’s maiden name
- Fraudster requests a victim’s credit report
- Dishonest employee with access uses or sells personal information
- Fraudster changes the address on your account to their address through the financial institution
- Thief who steals your information during a burglary
PT: What are your best tips for preventing identity theft from occurring?
JK: Here’s a list of several tips for preventing identity theft:
- Shred pre-approved credit applications, bills, & other financial information before discarding.
- Empty your wallet of extra credit cards.
- Memorize or secure your passwords and SSN. Don’t carry them around.
- Never leave receipts behind at ATMs, merchants, banks, or gasoline pumps.
- Check your credit report once a year for accuracy and fraud abuse.
- Don’t use a date of birth as your password.
- Never give personal information to a stranger.
- Match receipts against financial statements.
PT: If someone becomes aware of theft of their identity, what should be their next steps?
JK: Here’s a list of steps to take:
- File a report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place.
- File a report with the Federal Trade Commission.
- Report lost or stolen credit cards to the issuer immediately.
- Consider changing account numbers, passwords, and PIN numbers immediately.
- Advise the credit bureaus of your situation and consider placing a fraud alert on your account.
- Request a copy of your credit report.
- Alert your banks to flag your accounts and contact you to confirm any unusual activity.
- Maintain a record of names and phone numbers of the people with whom you discussed your case, and all supporting documents.
Identity Theft Internet Resources
As a bonus, J. Krafels provided this list of identity theft internet resources:
- United States Postal Inspection Service
- Federal Trade Commission’s ID Theft Center
- Looks too Good to be True
- Consumer Privacy Guide
- Identity Theft: Prevention & Survival
- Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
Wow. That’s a ton of quality information. Thanks to J. Krafels for taking the time to be interviewed. Be sure and bookmark this page just in case you need it in the future.