Being number one is not always good. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) statistics regarding identity theft have placed Kansas squarely in the No. 1 position among all states. Here in the Sunflower State, between 2019 and 2020, the number of ID theft reports increased from 2,272 to a whopping 43,211. That amounts to an incredible 1,801.9% rise.
Your Better Business Bureau (BBB) urges Kansans to take steps toward protection of their identities ahead of scammers’ attempts. Repairing the damage done by ID thieves can be expensive and may take years. The problem is made all the worse by the fact that it can go undetected for a long period of time. Victims may not realize the theft has occurred until substantial damage has been done to their assets, credit and reputation. It’s far better to take a proactive approach before crooks try to pull you into a financial nightmare.
What you can do now
It only takes a sliver of personal information for a thief to submit false applications for loans and credit cards. Thieves can withdraw money from your accounts, obtain services from state and federal government agencies and ransack your finances by selling your personal information to other crooks.
Scammers may take measures to prevent bills and statements from new accounts from going to your real address. As a result, you can be kept clueless for months or even years about their theft.
Head off the crooks with these actions:
• Don’t ignore your bank and credit card statements. Read them carefully for unfamiliar charges or withdrawals, even small ones. Scammers may start with tiny amounts just to see if you’re paying attention.
• Know when your bills normally arrive. If one doesn’t come on time, it may indicate a scammer has changed your address with the biller.
• Consider setting up automatic alerts on your accounts that notify you of every transaction.
• Entities that legitimately need your Social Security number, like the IRS, banks and employers, never ask for that information through a call, email or text.
• Don’t put your Social Security card in your wallet; if a thief gets your wallet, they have your ID.
• Ignore phishing attempts. Crooks love to pose as representatives of government agencies or tech support companies.
• Watch out for scammers impersonating the Kansas Department of Labor, especially in emails or text messages.
• Use strong passwords or passphrases. Never use birth dates, a child’s name, your mother’s maiden name, the last four digits of your Social Security number or easily guessed sequences like “123456.”
• Change passwords often.
• Never reuse passwords from one account to another.
• Always use multi-factor authentication if it is an option.
• Shred outdated documents and at least the address portion of junk mail. Consider any paperwork with even the smallest bit of information about you to be shred worthy.
• Check your credit reports with each of the three major credit bureaus once a year for free at AnnualCreditReport.com. Space the three out across the year to maximize their usefulness. Better yet, take the time to freeze your credit bureau reports.
What to do if you are victimized
Doing the following will get you started in unravelling a scammer’s tangle:
• Report the theft to the FTC at identitytheft.gov.
• Report the theft to the financial entity or organization where it occurred.
• Place a fraud alert on your account (for free) by contacting one of the three credit bureaus.
• Report the scam to BBB’s Scam Tracker at bbb.org.
• Free id theft help is available through the Identity Theft Resource Center at idtheftcenter.org
For answers to other questions or concerns, reach BBB at (800) 856-2417 or visit bbb.org for help.