Identity Theft is on the Rise
In 2001, the FTC reported 86,250 identity theft consumer complaints. By 2015 that number had skyrocketed to 490,220. In our ever increasingly electronic society, these numbers are sure to continue to rise in the years to come.
Banking, shopping and paying bills online are just a few of the many ways our private information is sent out into the cyber world. Most anyone with a computer can easily retrieve at least some personal information simply by searching online.
In addition, our account numbers and social security numbers are available for potentially thousands of people who work with this information every day. For instance, the bank teller or customer service representative at our credit card company, can access our information at any time.
Identity thieves are constantly finding new ways and new targets. Some targets are easier than others and unfortunately senior citizens are usually easy marks for identity thieves. Recently a Chatanooga, TN man was arrested for identity theft for the second time after stealing the credit card of an elderly woman. Marcus Nix had been working for Visiting Angels home care agency for one week when his employment background check came back. The report showed an arrest for six counts of identity theft only two months prior to being hired.
A similar crime occurred this past April when Erika Machelle Davis was charged with Trafficking in Stolen Identities. Davis, an employee of Magnolia Ridge Care and Rehabilitation, was arrested after the daughter of a resident uncovered discrepancies in her mother’s bank account. Police uncovered a notebook full of entries with personal information found online. According to the lead detective, Davis had stolen identities from victims throughout the U.S.
Children are also an easy target for identity theft. It can be many years before the child is old enough to begin using credit. This adds up to another easy target. Because the child isn’t using their credit, the thief can easily go unnoticed for a decade or more.
This is a sobering lesson for all entities involved, including employers. The business sector dealing with vulnerable populations like children and the elderly absolutely need to review its hiring processes to be sure these types of situations don’t occur.
While we tend to think of identity theft only in financial terms, there are other dangers lurking in the shadows with this crime. In May Ashley N. Johnson was arrested in Indiana for posing as a nurse. The imposter nurse gave the wrong medication to a Clearvista Lake patient.
Clearvista Lake stated that the first background check came back clear. This was because Johnson used a valid nurses licensing number. These numbers are public record. The employer later received an updated background report stating her credentials were false. This was the second incident of this kind in Indiana this year.
No one is 100% safe from identity theft in this digital age. Whether it’s a local hacker or an international network, our information is out there for someone to find. But there are ways to protect our information and limit its reach.
- Have a Security Suite – We now use multiple sources to use and retrieve our personal data including tablets, smartphones and laptops. This means we need an entire security suite to keep all of our systems protected. Be sure to have the protection turned on 24/7 and monitor it frequently for updates.
- Avoid Public Wi-Fi – We all like free data so we like to find ways to utilize it. Public Wi-Fi can be an open door for identity thieves to walk right through and steal our identity. If you can’t help yourself with the free Wi-Fi, don’t access sensitive information like online banking or credit card statements.
- Use Strong Passwords – It’s a pain to constantly think of new and innovative passwords. It’s even a bigger pain to remember what they are. Passwords are one of the most important steps you can take to protect your identity. You may choose to use password manager software to manage these more easily.
- Be Smart with Email – Never, ever send confidential information via email. Always be sure who is really sending you emails. Phishing emails are common ways that identity thieves get sensitive information from their targets. Don’t give this information in an email. Always call the company to verify.
- Freeze Your Child’s Credit – What? You heard right. A recent article in Consumer Reports suggests that parents take action now to safeguard their children from identity theft. Currently 23 states allow a parent to freeze their child’s credit report at this time. The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) is an accurate source to find out if your state is one of them.
- Background Check Yourself – Background check yourself to see if there if are any discrepancies. There have been several cases where people have applied for a job only to find out they had their identities stolen during a background check.
Identity theft is a huge concern in today’s world. There are threats from the thief across town and there are threats from the thief across the ocean. Vigilance is key to ensuring it doesn’t happen to you. Sentinel Background Checks offers a Self Check App which allows you to pick and choose which background check services you utilize. Call (888) 725-2535 today or Click Here to order your check now!