This week at my bank branch we had a major case of Identity Theft.Thank goodness the loss was only minimal, but unfortunately the lost money can never be recovered.
This is the scariest thing about identity theft, the person who has stolen someone’s identity doesn’t actually exist because they have assumed the identity of someone else.
The other really scary thing about identity theft, or any type of theft, is that we only catch and recover a very small percentage of everyday thefts.
And yes, I believe that everyday personal theft and identity theft occurs, we just may not know about it.
Identity theft can be extremely damaging to our short-term and long-term personal financial situation, it could also cost us thousands of dollars. In my bank branch the fraud client came in to get a new debit card claiming that he misplaced his own debit card over the weekend. Of course we had no idea at the time that he was a fraud client. The teller asked to see two pieces of identification which were his drivers licence and Social Security number.
The client gave the teller both pieces of id; the drivers licence number matched the number that we had in the clients file on our bank system. He also confirmed the Social Security Number and the address on file. Since the photo id matched our records the teller gave the client a new debit card along with his up to date account balances. The client withdrew $2500 in cash and ordered another $10,000 for pick up in three days. We gave the client his money and he was on his way.
The next day we received a call from our real client who wanted to know why $2,500 was withdrawn from his account. He tried to check his account balances through online banking but he was unable to log in with his debit card. This is normal because we had cancelled his debit card and replaced it with the new debit card that we gave to the fraud client the day before. We reminded him that we replaced his debit card yesterday, and he advised us that he didn’t come to our bank branch yesterday. This was a red flag for us and we immediately froze his accounts and cancelled the order of $10,000.
As a formality we asked the real client to come in for an interview with additional pieces of identification including his passport; we also asked him to bring in a utility bill which will confirm his name and address. After meeting the client and getting all of his accounts in order we once again cancelled the previous debit card and issued a new debit card to our real client. Now that our real client was satisfied and the immediate financial mess was cleaned up we could only hope that the fraud client would return in two days to pick up his $10,000 and we could catch him; needless to say the fraud client never came back to our bank branch.
Even though the short term situation was fixed, the long term effects that Identity Theft could have on our personal financial situation could be never ending. We advised our real client to sign up for a Credit Alert service with the three credit bureaus so that he will be altered any time someone checks his credit. This is helpful to clients because they can verify that they actually applied for credit with the companies who are verifying their credit bureau. I signed up for this service after my wallet was stolen. When I was younger and I first moved away from home I was naive and financially irresponsible. I carried all of my personal identification and bank information in my wallet. When my wallet was stolen my whole life was stolen along with it, from my credit card to my birth certificate.
There is no way to know how frauders obtain our personal information, maybe they have a friend who works at the bank or maybe they have a friend who works for the Internal Revenue Service. However, most often frauders steel our wallets or our mail to obtain all of our personal information. A common way that frauders use our personal information is to apply for new credit cards in our name and then max out the card to the limit. It is very difficult to prove that we didn’t apply for the credit card, but if the credit card was sent to an alternate address it could help our case.
Although we can never prevent the possibility of Identity Fraud, we can try to take precautions. It’s a good idea to keep our credit cards at home; this prevents the possibility that they will be stolen or cloned, it also eliminates the temptation of spending money that we don’t have. We should only keep one piece of identification in our wallet such as our drivers licence; this eliminates the loss of all our identification if our wallet is stolen and it protects our identity. Having our monthly bills delivered electronically prevents the possibility of our mail being stolen or lost in transit. We should also order a copy of our credit bureau at least once a year to make sure that all of our information is up to date and that our open credit products are actually products that we applied for.
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