Beware of Pandemic Identity Theft

The pandemic has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for scammers and identity theft. In the most uncertain of times, enterprising criminals have defrauded even the savviest individuals.

A Billshark customer recently shared, in her own words, a sophisticated scheme that took months to unravel — and repair.

What Happened

It all started with a hacked telephone landline. I received a call from a major financial institution to confirm a new credit card that was opened in my name. Suspecting fraud, I researched my credit history. I discovered that several unauthorized credit accounts and bank accounts created using my name and social security number.

Although I was able to lock my credit immediately, the damage was done: a thief had stolen my identity. As I worked tirelessly to unravel the intricate scheme, I made a few shocking discoveries about my accounts:

My telephone landline was rerouted to a different number.

The thief was able to change the settings in my account without my knowledge, which precluded me from receiving most of my calls, mostly from credit card companies and other financial institutions confirming my newly-opened accounts. These calls went to another landline that went directly to voicemail (not my own).

My home address was changed.

Because it was summer, I never noticed my mail deliveries stopped. When I called the post office, they said someone had changed my address — online. Shockingly, they do not require proof of identity to make this change. All mail was now rerouted to an empty mailbox about 25 miles away. That pile of mail likely contained numerous bills, bank statements, and other transaction receipts that I never saw.

My bank account was compromised.

Two $2,500 deposits were transferred from my primary account to a newly-opened account at a completely different bank. I had my transaction alert threshold set at a higher amount, so I didn’t realize the transfers were made until it was too late.

The thief filed an unemployment claim in my name.

The thief submitted a small business loan application in my name.

Reporting the incident

When I went to the police to file a report, I expected the detectives to immediately investigate. I believed this to be a unique and very elaborate fraud. Unfortunately, my case was not unusual. In fact, the detectives were inundated with cases just like mine — hacked phone lines, unauthorized address changes, fraudulent accounts.

After a month of identifying and closing fraudulent accounts, arguing with my phone company, and changing dozens of passwords, I was able to get the situation under control. Now my credit file is locked, and I am optimistic that I’ve stopped the identity thief from doing any more damage.

What You Need to Know About Pandemic Identity Theft

  1. Freeze your credit with all the credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. We can’t stress this enough. This simple action will prevent anyone from opening an unauthorized account in your name.
  2. Don’t use the same password for all your important accounts. Don’t worry about keeping track of complicated passwords — simply use a password manager to store them.
  3. Take advantage of alerts. Most financial institutions will provide an alert for various account transactions.
  4. Never share your social security number. Many businesses and organizations ask for your number. Don’t hesitate to ask whether it is mandatory to provide it and how it will be used.
  5. Watch your mail. Don’t let your mail pile up, and make sure you have the post office hold it if you’re out of town. And most importantly, make sure you’re aware of any changes to your mail delivery.
  6. Avoid public WiFi whenever you are making sensitive transactions.
  7. Don’t click on links in emails from unidentified senders. You might install malware — a widely used scam tool — without even realizing it.

Billshark is here to make your life easier. If you believe you are being overcharged or simply want to lower your monthly bill, contact Billshark. Then sit back, relax, and we’ll get to work on lowering your bill.

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