Yikes: Identity Theft
This past weekend, I got called out for one my most interesting jobs in a while. I stepped outside my comfort zone and tackled this topic. Let me give you a little background. The client became a potential victim of identity theft due to some carelessness with an eBay purchase. I was not involved in the original transaction. As you may or may not know, Ebay has a dispute resolution process if the buyer and seller have problems after the sale. In this instance, the buyer bought a pair of high end Air Jordan sneakers that the seller claimed were NEW. When they arrived they were anything but. The insides were slightly dirty and there were stones and dirt in the soles. As part of the resolution process, the complaining party must submit photos. My client did, however, mistakenly a picture of her passport was included with the photos of the footwear. Ebay is slow to respond and hard to reach by phone. After speaking with them twice by phone; Ebay’s appeals department claimed they would remove the irrelevant photo in a few days. Nevertheless, my client was in in a panic. The hostile seller had her name, home address and date of birth.
Identity theft has gotten high tech. Consider old school ID theft for a moment…….
A pickpocket snatched your purse or wallet in the middle of Manhattan. Perhaps, a scammer at a bank or department store copied your Social Security number or credit card number down and misused this information. In more recent times, you may have completed a transaction on a bad website or website that got hacked after the fact. However….there is one form of ID theft that I think people often ignore or don’t realize exists.
Change of Address Fraud
The US Postal Service may have upped its security a bit in recent years, but its still relatively easy to change an address. Some of you have lived in the same home for 20 to 30 years. You may never need to change your address. However, what’s to stop someone else from submitting a change of address request (fraudulently) on your behalf? For years all you had to do was pick up a change of address card at the local Post Office and fill it out. In recent times, the USPS moved the process online, encouraging people to pay $1.00 to change their address online. Do you think one dollar is really going to stop a criminal? Furthermore, the paper change of address cards are still available at the local office.
There are several identity protection services out there — ie. Life Lock, Identity Guard, Identity Force, etc. Protection that guards against change of address fraud costs about $20 a month. I am not recommending that anyone sign up for one of those three services, but just to check them out thoroughly if you are concerned. Also, ask your local Postmaster about what can be done to protect you from this scam. The solution that the client (age 48) and I came up with was to sign up for one of the three aforementioned services. I suggested 6 months; the client said she wanted to do it for a year. Furthermore, I wrote a letter for her to send to her local Postmaster alerting him or her and asked if some type of “flag” could be put on her address.
This incident made me and even bigger proponent of getting bank statements online and printing them out from home. Let’s say a criminal does change your address. If you don’t have any bank or credit card statements going to the mailbox, it really takes the wind out of their sails.