The Face of ID Theft: Eva Velasquez, President & CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center
Vice President and ID Theft Practice Leader
This month's article includes a question and answer interview with Eva Velasquez, the President & CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center. Eva previously served as the Vice President of Operations for the San Diego Better Business Bureau and spent 21 years at the San Diego District Attorney's Office.
My focus on interviewing Eva is her passion for consumer protection and educating the public about identity theft, privacy, scams and fraud, and other related issues and is recognized as a nationwide expert on these topics.
Pribish: You've typically found that many people are only concerned about identity theft after it happens to them, but why should everyone be worried about identity theft?
Velasquez: Identity theft can happen to anyone. It doesn't matter how old you are, how much you make, or if your credit is outstanding or poor, everyone is at risk of having their identity stolen. In fact, last year 15.4 million people were hit with some kind of identity theft.
We often find that even with that large number being referenced in the media, people still aren't grasping the magnitude of the situation. You may think that if you were not a victim of identity theft in the last year that you were not affected; nothing could be further from the truth. The downstream consequences for each victim actually have an impact on all of us. The time spent away from work or family obligations create an environment where others must fill the void and meet those obligations. This is just one concrete example, and there are many others.
Pribish: Oftentimes when we think of identity theft we only think about the financial impact of this prolific crime on its victims. In what other ways does this crime affect individuals?
Velasquez: For years we've been looking at how this crime effects individuals through our annual Identity Theft: The Aftermath report, which explores the impact of identity theft victimization. This survey, which captures responses of identity theft victims who have contacted the ITRC for assistance in the last year, has confirmed for us that this crime creates more than just financial hardship for victims.
In many cases, this crime has crept into other parts of their lives, negatively impacting their employment, housing, relationships and even educational opportunities. Others mentioned that identity theft took a strong emotional toll on them with nearly one fourth of the survey respondents noting they sought professional help from the emotions or physical symptoms they identified as a result of the use or miss-use of their personal information.
In addition to the emotional toll victim's faced, some of the respondents experienced a wide variety of physical reactions as result of this crime, which included stress (64.3 percent), sleep disturbances (48.3 percent), inability to concentrate (37.5). These are impacts that have daily consequences on the lives of victims and are important to recognize alongside the financial impacts.
Pribish: What are a few steps someone can take to minimize their risks of identity theft?
Velasquez: There are many proactive steps you can take to help minimize your risks of identity theft. First and foremost, safeguarding your personal identifying information, like your login credentials, account information, birth certificate and most importantly, your social security number (SSN). If there is a priority, protecting your SSN should be your number one priority.
For example, it's extremely important to never carry your Social Security card or provide your SSN unnecessarily. Here are some additional tips to follow closely:
- Use a cross-cut shredder and shred all unwanted mail and documents that are no longer necessary
- Place outgoing mail in U.S. Postal Service mailbox or take it directly to your local U.S. Post Office
- Create and use strong passwords
- Set up a passcode/password and install anti-virus software on all of your mobile devices (smartphone, tablet) and computers (desktop, laptop)
- Don't give out personal information on the phone, through the mail or over the Internet unless you initiated the contact
- Avoid logging into sensitive accounts, email or providing credit card/debit card numbers while on public Wi-Fi
- Order your free credit reports throughout the year to look for anything suspicious
And lastly, another proactive step you can take is to download our free ID Theft Help app, which includes a multitude of resources and tips to protect your identity that you can easily access on the go.
Pribish: If you think you might be a victim of identity theft or know that you are, what are the steps you should take?
Velasquez: The ITRC provides no-cost victim assistance to anyone across the nation, so if you think you might be a victim of identity theft, contact us immediately by calling our toll- free number: 888-400-5530 or by accessing our Live Chat feature on our website. Our victim advisors, who have been assisting victims for 10+ years, will walk you through the process of how to reclaim your identity.
Our free ID Theft Help app, which I mentioned above, also has a case log feature, which allows victims to digitally keep track of their identity theft case easily, quickly, and all in one place. For more information on that, visit our website.
Even if you aren't a victim, you can contact us any time you have questions or concerns related to identity theft, scams, data breaches and cybersecurity. Our goal at the ITRC is to educate and assist anyone who has concerns and hopefully help one more person from becoming a victim of identity theft.
I would like to thank Eva for her time in answering the above questions and hope you are able to take some knowledge from her insight in this article.
To learn more about these threats and how to protect yourself and your family from Identity Theft, you can read my past newsletters at the Merchants Identity Theft Educational Website at www.idtheftedu.com.
Scam Alert: Con Artists Move to Facebook Messenger
September 08, 2017
You probably know to watch for scams in your email inbox, on the phone, and in a text message. However, if you are on Facebook, look out for scams using Messenger. BBB is seeing an increase in reports of scammers reaching victims through Facebook Messenger.
How the Scam Works:
You get a Facebook Messenger chat that looks like it comes from a friend or relative. In some cases, scammers have hacked into your friend's Facebook account. In other versions, the scammer creates a separate look-alike account by stealing your friend's photos. Either way, scammers are banking that you will trust a message that appears to come from someone you know.
Currently, the most commonly reported Facebook Messenger con in BBB Scam Tracker is the government grant scam (bbb.org/grantscam). In this con, the scammer – posing as a friend or family member – will send you a message claiming you qualify for money from the government. To receive the grant, the scammer requires you to pay a "processing fee" or an "application fee" first. The scammer keeps this money and disappears.
But just because government grant scams are currently the top cons on Facebook Messenger, doesn't mean they are the only ones. Be on the lookout for sales scams (bbb.org/webpurchasescam), investment scams (bbb.org/investmentscam), and others.
How to spot this scam:
- Be wary of your friends' tastes online: Your friend or family member may have impeccable judgment in real-life. But online, email messages, social posts, and Facebook Messenger chats could be from a hacked or impersonated account.
- Report scam accounts and messages to Facebook: Alert Facebook to fake profiles, compromised accounts, and spam messages by reporting them.
- Learn more on BBB.org: Most scams follow similar patterns. Learn more about government grant scams (bbb.org/grantscam), financial scams (bbb.org/investmentscam), and online shopping scams (bbb.org/webpurchasescam).
For More Information:
Courtesy of the Better Business Bureau - for more information visit http://www.bbb.org/phoenix/news-events/
To find out more about other scams, check out BBB Scam Stopper (bbb.org/scamstopper). To report a scam, go to BBB Scam Tracker (bbb.org/scamtracker). To learn more about scams, go to BBB Scam Timps (bbb.org/scamtips).
If you believe your identity has been stolen, call 866.SMART68 today.