Filing your income taxes can be stressful. More so when you get a letter from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Further, when that letter states that someone with your Social Security Number (SSN) has already filed a tax return and the one you filed has been rejected. Now, you must prove that you are you and work with the IRS to accept your tax return in order to either receive your refund or pay the tax you may owe. This example is one we have seen play out over and over the last several years as personal identification has become readily available on the internet.
Lately, we are seeing a lot of cases where social media profiles are being cloned or copied. For example, you may receive a friend request from someone you are already friends with. Face it, we all have “fat fingers” from time to time and may inadvertently “unfriend” someone and request to add them back. However, we often see the message come through at some point when the victim discovers the duplicate profile, usually alerted by a friend, that notifies everyone on their friend list to not accept friend requests from them.
The “Grandparent” scam is another form of identity theft. An elderly person may receive a phone call from someone identifying themselves as their grandchild. The grandchild is in a precarious situation and needs financial assistance immediately in the form of iTunes gift cards or money orders from Walmart. The grandparent usually finds out about the scam much later when the grandchild reveals they were never in any sort of trouble. Unfortunately, the money spent by the grandparent is unable to be traced or returned.
The old joke about politicians registering deceased individuals and casting ballots is not actually a joke. It has occurred on several occasions. One such occasion that comes to mind was several years back when the San Francisco 49ers NFL franchise attempted to obtain public funding for a new stadium in the Hunter’s Point district of South San Francisco to replace the aging Candlestick Park. The initiative passed, however, after reviewing the votes it was found that somehow a series of deceased individuals had voted from the grave in favor of funding the new stadium with public money. The stadium was never built, and the team moved to a new stadium in Santa Clara, 40 minutes south of San Francisco.
Credit or Debit card theft is another common form of identity theft. This type of theft can leave a victim owing several thousand dollars to financial organizations. There are some thresholds for reimbursement, but often the victim is left owing the debts. There is also the black mark on the victim’s credit report, which they will probably spend the rest of their lives fighting. This affects everything from employment to loan approval for homes, auto purchases or new lines of credit.
A growing problem in our society is the abuse of prescription drugs. Senior citizens are incredibly vulnerable to identity theft where a fraudster steal’s their medical information for the purpose of obtaining prescription drugs. Fraudsters also use stolen identities for Medicare/Medicaid or insurance fraud. Medical equipment fraud is also on the rise. Fraudster’s will procure the equipment using a stolen identity, charge the insurance and then resell the items. Debts due to medical fraud cases are rising significantly each year and are causing headaches for victims that are having to prove their identities were stolen and used fraudulently. Misdiagnoses of medical conditions is also occurring rapidly due to the identity theft epidemic in the healthcare field.
We could continue to provide more examples, but I think our point has been made. It really does not matter what industry you work in, your income level or your education level. At some point, you are probably going to fall victim to identity theft. It is no longer what you do up front to prevent it from happening, it is now what you do on the back end to minimize the “bleeding”. Once you fall victim, the wound never heals and the problem will continue to pop up from time to time in one form or the other.