ID fraud is up, but consumers are fighting back
By Pamila Yip – Dallas Morning News
The bad news is that identity fraud reached a new high in 2009.
The good news is that consumers are fighting back.
The number of ID fraud victims jumped 12 percent in 2009, but consumers are becoming more educated and are filing more reports with law enforcement, according to Javelin Strategy & Research, which conducts research on financial services topics.
James Van Dyke, Javelin’s president and founder, said ID fraud “increased for the second straight year and is at the highest rate since Javelin began this report in 2003.
“The good news,” he added, “is consumers are getting more aggressive in monitoring, detecting and preventing fraud with the help of technology and partnerships with financial institutions, government agencies and resolution services.”
Javelin analysts said the rise in ID fraud cases may be due to the economic downturn, when higher rates of fraud historically occur.
There are many ways a thief can swipe your personal information, and he doesn’t have to have physical possession of your credit card or Social Security card.
“There’s no one model for pattern of identity theft,” said Anne Wallace, president of the Identity Theft Assistance Center. “It can happen close to home with people you know or it can happen on the other side of the world. Personal information is a commodity that’s bought and sold, and you never see the perpetrators.”
Remember this about identity theft:
“Crooks follow value,” Wallace said.
Last November, Javelin conducted telephone interviews with more than 5,000 U.S. consumers to identify and track the methods fraudsters used.
The survey found that instances in which fraudsters opened new accounts of all types with stolen information increased 17 percent in 2009.
The number of fraudulent new credit card accounts increased to 39 percent of all identity fraud victims, up from 33 percent in 2008.
And 29 percent of victims reported new cell phone accounts were fraudulently opened in their name, the first time the survey asked about this.
A budding area is medical ID theft where thieves use your personal and health insurance information to obtain medical treatment or drugs.
Javelin’s survey found that the theft of medical records to commit ID fraud rose to 7 percent in 2009 from 3 percent in 2008.
The bottom line is, protect your personal information, medical and nonmedical.
The Federal Trade Commission has these tips:
- Verify a source before sharing information. Don’t give out personal or medical information on the phone or through the mail unless you’ve initiated the contact and you’re sure you know whom you’re dealing with.
- Be wary of offers of “free” health services or products from providers who require you to give them your health plan ID number.
“Medical identity thieves may pose as employees of insurance companies, doctors’ offices, clinics, pharmacies, and even government agencies to get people to reveal their personal information,” the FTC said. “Then, they use it to commit fraud, like submitting false claims for Medicare reimbursement.”
You can catch medical identity theft early on. Read every “Explanation of Benefits” statement you get from your health insurer after you visit your doctor. Follow up on any item you don’t recognize.
You’re the first line of defense of your personal information. Lock away your personal documents at home and don’t share passwords with others.
You don’t want to become a statistic