Identity Thieves are Hitting Close to Home
Identity theft is a costly mess to clean up, in time and sometimes in lost money. Stolen personal information can be used to apply for new banking accounts and credit cards, new loan accounts, rental agreements, file taxes to get your refund, and even to apply for unemployment, social security, and military benefits. It can be quite a mess.
It is important to look at your credit report at least annually. There are three credit bureaus that provide these reports. You can get a free report annually from each. You might consider pulling one every four months so you can keep a closer eye on your credit transactions. Due to an increase in fraud during the Pandemic, bureaus are currently offering a free report once a week, through April 2021. If you see loans or lines of credit from companies that are set-up under your name and social security number where they are showing payments being made or late payments, you should contact the bureau immediately and find out how to dispute this information. You should also notify each of your financial institutions. Free credit reports do not include credit scores. They focus on your credit activity. To request a free report visit www.AnnualCreditReport.com or 1.877.322.8228.
Theft Via Unemployment Benefits
Thieves are currently filing for unemployment benefits under the victim’s name and social security number. That is why it is important that you only share personal information with companies that you trust and not have it lying around your house where guests or robbers can easily see it. We are now seeing increased activity for these false filings in the Wichita market.
It usually starts with a data breach where thieves can obtain the personal information data from a system that houses it. That could be a merchant, a financial institution, or even a government agency. Normally, the source remains unknown. We do not know where the information currently being used was obtained from. Rest assured it is not specific to Credit Union of America and CUA has had no data breaches. It is harder for thieves to open new financial accounts because many financial institutions require you open accounts in-person and thieves do not want to be seen. When opening online, additional information and double checks are required. They may however try to get information over the phone from your financial institution. That is why we perform identify checks with multiple and changing questions when you request information by phone. You can add to that security by adding a strong password only known to you that you provide when you call CUA. You can add a password with a CUA representative at any time.
Regarding the fraudulent unemployment benefits now occurring: The Kansas Department of Labor receives the application and starts their processing. Part of that process is to send you a hard-copy letter at your current address informing you they received “your” request for benefits. If you get one of these letters do not throw it away thinking it is a fake. This part of the situation is valid. If you did not apply, there are steps to take immediately.
- Notify KDOL at email@example.com (this information Is on their notification letter)
- Contact your financial institution(s) and ask what protections they can provide. At CUA you can put the strong password mentioned earlier, on your entire account relationship. This is different than your online banking/mobile app password. This password should be kept to yourself and will be required if you call into CUA for account information or to perform transactions. Fraudsters may try to call your financial institution for more information or to conduct transactions if they also know where you bank. You can also lock/unlock your debit card within the mobile app or desktop online banking.
- CUA has a fraud specialist you can visit with to assess your situation and they will provide you with the Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft Guide. If you suspect you are a victim of identity theft, say, after banking hours, you can access the Guide online. The Guide is comprehensive, so there may be sections that do not pertain to you. It provides details on where and how to make the various reports and even tells you the items you will need to take with you to file your local police report.
When this scam happens to you it can be quite unnerving. Keep your wits about you, contact CUA and your other financial institutions, and follow the FTC’s guide.
Identity theft can be used for tax-related, medical, social security/benefits, or even child identity theft fraud.
So be sure to keep your personal information to yourself and carefully read any items you receive in your mail on a timely basis. Monitor your accounts routinely, and with good preventative habits you can catch the theft early and get it stopped.