Monday, March 15, 2021

The True Meaning of Identity Theft

 



Scene from upcoming movie, "That Gone Darn Scam!"

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My new web series, "Cyber Brats" a funny puppet show highlighting scam prevention, is FREE and available on Spondulics TV at https://spondulics.org/talent.   On weekdays, my programs starts at 9:30am eastern and ends at 10:00am. The show repeats every six hours, with new programming every Friday! 

In addition, I have a 2nd show in the works thanks to a grant from the West Springfield Arts Council, a local agency supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council. This 10-minute weekly program will air on the West Springfield local access television in addition to be uploaded to my YouTube Channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZ5JPhBrP4OpCKeY4hbm5Dg.  Stay tuned! 

According to the Federal Trade Commission, identity fraud cases has tripled within the past 3 years. 

In 2020, 1,387,615 consumers from across the country felt the sharp sting. The year before that, 650,523 victims were impacted. 2018 saw 444,344 Americans lose their hard earned dollars. 

Talk about a spike! The advent of COVID-19 has much to do with the huge numbers for 2020. 

But what alerted me to the crime of identity theft itself is WHEN this scam itself unravels. I thought it happened once a scammer illegally use personal information for financial benefit. 

My brain buzzed like a switchboard while I was contemplating the actual meaning of identity theft. 

The AARP Fraud Watch Network defines the occurrence of identity theft when, "someone steals personal information that could be used to falsely apply for credit or for government benefits." 

Think about that for a moment. 

The crime of identity theft does not begin when a criminal is actively engaging in fraudulent activities such as making purchases while assuming another person's name or using deceit to have a customer reveal sensitive information. 

Identity theft is underway the moment the con artists is in possession of stolen personal information. 

One need not use or sell sensitive data to commit identity fraud. Once an individual has unlawful possession of it, the theft itself had already materialized. 

SWRS Radio Manager Chuck Green interviews Cyber Sly

With this said, it makes me wonder how experts categorizes what is personal information when users on social media platforms deliberately share birthdays in conjunction with ages, detailed COVID-19 vaccine cards, addresses, employment, trips out of town, and so on. 

WHY THIS MATTERS

Con artists are working diligently with whatever pieces of information available publicly on social media. It's kind of like constructing a puzzle set. Once the pieces are in place, the big picture is seen. 

Swindlers can use this information to falsely apply for credit or government benefits.

There have been cases of the identities of young children falling prey to identity thieves. Years later, when they applied for a line of credit, they find out about unknown fees incurred by these bad actors. 

PROTECT YOURSELF

1. If someone calls or email you to purport there is a problem with some account you have, hang up! Do not give out any personal information. Call the business official number to confirm your status. 

2. Remove mail or sensitive documents responsibly. Invest in a shredder and get rid of unwanted papers. Never leave personal info in your trash, office, and yes; social media postings. 

3. Just because a job is posted on an employment website does make it legitimate. Do your homework and research hiring companies on your own. You can even look up status or complaints on the FTC website at https://www.ftc.gov or the Better Business Bureau at https://www.bbb.org

Remember, identity theft is in progress once the scammer have your info. There's no telling when the scammer will put it to use. He or she might wait sometime or sell it to a bidder on the dark web or elsewhere. 

Protect yourself and loved ones from the never-ending threat of fraud. Vigilance is key!

Please don't forget to check out my weekly puppet show at https://spondulics.org/talent

I will be posting helpful info weekly! Feel free to subscribe or bookmark the link to my blog. https://www.kenharrisnews.com

Until time, stay safe and stay secure!

Ken Harris

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