Half of Georgia consumers who responded to a 2015 End-of-Year Survey by Georgia Credit Union Affiliates (GCUA) have been the victim of identity fraud.
The survey revealed 47 percent of respondents have been the victim of a scam or some form of identity theft. Thirty-five percent said they have taken some form of proactive measure against identity fraud, while 56 percent said they closely monitor their accounts and are certain they would notice any fraudulent transactions. Nine percent of respondents said they figure someone will alert them if their account has been compromised.
The National Crime Victimization Survey conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics revealed an estimated 17.6 million Americans – about 7 percent of U.S. residents age 16 or older – were
victims of identity theft in 2014 (the most recent data available). Two-thirds of identity theft victims reported a direct financial loss. According to the study, victims whose personal information was misused or who had a new account opened in their name experienced greater out-of-pocket financial losses than those who had an existing credit card or bank account compromised.
Most card fraud occurs in the United States, according to creditcards.com. In fact, a 2015 study from multinational financial service provider Barclays states the U.S. is responsible for 47 percent of the world’s card fraud, despite only accounting for 24 percent of total worldwide card volume. About 31.8 million U.S. consumers had their credit cards breached in 2014, more than three times the number affected in 2013.
Some red flags to look out for when it comes to identity fraud include suspicious activity on your credit report, unusual spending in an account or unexpected mail or emails regarding a new account you didn’t open, according to Terry Hardy, President and CEO of MembersFirst Credit Union.
“If someone suspects fraud, it’s important they closely monitor their financial accounts,” Hardy said. “If they see anything unusual, they should contact the card issuer immediately. If it’s after hours, they should call the card fraud number on the back of the credit card to have the potentially compromised card blocked and to open an investigation on the transactions to stop any further activity.”
Fraud is not limited to credit and debit cards. Sometimes thieves will target a person’s identity or hack into personal accounts. Hardy said depending on the level of fraud, it may be necessary to close a compromised account and open a new one.
“They also need to be aware if there’s unauthorized reoccurring debits going through,” Hardy said. “They should keep a record of those – electronically or on paper – and then contact the company and set it up so no other purchases can go through.”
Hardy suggests being careful about passing along personal information such as an email or home address when completing surveys and filling out cards.
“People are too quick to give out details and are flooding the internet with personal information,” said Hardy. “They need to be very protective of their personal information – not put it on social media – and be cautious of emails with attachments from people they don’t recognize.”
Tips to protect you from identity fraud:
- Track your credit report – If a company that’s responsible for exposing your information offers you a free credit report, take advantage of it. If not, get one free report per year from annualcreditreport.com. Make sure to check for any questionable charges or activity.
- Consider placing a freeze on your credit – If your social security number has been compromised, consider implementing a credit freeze. This will make it harder for someone to open an account in your name. If you do place a freeze, expect to take some extra steps the next time you apply for credit or do anything that requires a credit check.
- Update your passwords – Make sure to change online account passwords frequently, especially if you suspect your account has been hacked. If you’re worried about future hacks, contact the company to find out the best way to shut down your account altogether.
- Consider closing compromised accounts – If an account at your financial institution has been compromised, consider going to your local branch to shut the account down and open a new one. Review your transactions regularly for fraudulent charges.
- Credit Unions can be a good source for identity fraud education. To learn more about credit unions in your community visit: http://www.asmarterchoice.org/.