By Roberta L Nestor
It almost seems inevitable that at some point you or someone you know will experience the darkness of the internet. As each year goes by, more of us are becoming victims of identity theft. Identity theft now comes in many forms from financial to criminal and then from medical to synthetic. Identity theft targets those that engage in social media, senior citizens, millennials as well as minor children. It is no longer a question of “how do I protect myself against identity theft?” but rather “what do I do when it happens?”
There are of course basics: First, contact your bank and other credit card companies. You will likely be required to establish new accounts, new PINS and on-line access for these. Next contact the three major credit agencies (Equifax, Transunion and Experian). Generally, these organizations will have their own forms or affidavits for you to complete. You might want to get in touch with www.scamsafe.com, a company that provides useful information related to identity theft and indicates which states participate in the Security Freeze Program and www.annualcreditreport.com who will provide you with one free credit report with on-going subsequent credit reports for a small fee.
The next steps are often not taken, however, highly recommended. You should contact the Federal Trade Commission to file a complaint. You can go on-line to file an identity theft complaint with the FTC www.ftc.gov/IDTheft or by calling 877-IDTHEFT. You should also file a report with your local police department, after all identity theft is a crime and legally documenting the incident will help you if there are repeated incidences. Most town and city websites offer great packets of information with all the numbers and resources you would need.
If your social security number has been compromised you should contact the Social Security Administration as well as the IRS. Not surprising, the IRS has a complete process for tax identity theft. Last year, the IRS received more than 1 million fraudulent tax returns and managed to stop nearly $7 billion in fraudulent tax refunds. Tax identity theft is burdensome because it never goes away. According to FORBES, the Alabama Department of Revenue Services has developed a system for taxpayers to create an electronic ID (eID) using a mobile phone app. Taxpayers file their tax return as usual and taxpayers who registered an eID will be notified once the Department of Revenue has received the taxpayer’s tax return. To verify the taxpayer’s identity, the taxpayer will be asked to take a selfie. That photo will be matched up with your driver’s license photo. It is a whole new world!
A child’s social security number can be used by identity thieves in many ways. They can open bank and credit card accounts, rent an apartment or even apply for government benefits. Periodically check your child’s credit report to see if their information is being misused. It is also important to check the apps your child has downloaded on their phones. For example, there have been 100 million downloads of the global phenomenon of “Pokémon Go” as well as millions of others who have downloaded “mirror images” of the application. The fake Pokémon apps give the identity thieves a literal GPS and they can install malware, get into phone records, emails and anything else stored on your phone.
Bottom line? Be careful in cyberspace and know what to do when identity theft strikes. And make sure when you hit the “I accept” box you have read the fine print.
Roberta L. Nestor is a financial advisor practicing at 491 New Haven Avenue in Milford, CT offering retirement, long term care, investment and tax planning services. She also offers securities and advisory services as an Investment Adviser Representative of Commonwealth Financial Network – a member FINRA/SIPC and a Registered Investment Adviser. Fixed insurance products offered through Nestor Financial Network are separate and unrelated to Commonwealth. Commonwealth Financial Network or Nestor Financial Network does not provide legal or tax advice. You should consult a legal or tax professional regarding your individual situation. Roberta can be reached at Nestor Financial Network, 203-876-8066 or firstname.lastname@example.org.