IDENTITY FRAUD AFFECTS CITIZENS OF THE LOW COUNTRY
Meg Elwood // April 24, 2017
STATESBORO - Individuals of all ages living in nearby counties have been affected by identity fraud due to scams carried out over the phone for credit card information.
Capt. Todd Hutchens of the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office said that when it comes to identity fraud, they receive at least one report a day ranging from theft to fraudulent use.
In order to identify such a crime, Hutchens refers to the Georgia Code of Law, which defines the act as a crime when a person willfully creates, uses or possesses information without authorization by its original owner for fraudulent use. These thieves are known as hackers.
Over the past year, there have been over 15 million victims of identity fraud in the nation, according to 2017 study released by Javelin Strategy & Research. Many cases begin when hackers attempt to collect personal information through a variety of banks for cardholder’s names over the internet or the phone.
“They'll call under the assumption that they're a contact person who is confirming information such as a date of birth, and if they give the person the wrong one, they'll ask for the correct one. So, they use that [correct] information to start either electronically applying for credit cards or they’ll fill out card applications and send them in,’ Hutchens said.
Today's cases of identity fraud in Bulloch County occur primarily in the older generation due to their trust in strangers.
Hutchens said that the green card scam has been rapidly targeting the elderly by convincing them that a family member is in prison and in need of funds via green cards.
“We had a lady who was out and purchased about $5,000 worth of green cards when we finally tracked her down...She was an elderly lady who was going from store to store because you can only max out a green card at a certain dollar figure...it took a while to explain and convince her that 'no you don't have a family member in jail, they're scamming you out of this money,” Hutchens said.
Many cases go unnoticed or prove to be near impossible to close due to the difficulty of tracking hackers. Ashton Kluttz, a student at Georgia Southern University considered herself to be lucky after she noticed a charge to Home Depot made on March 19 that emptied her checking account.
Kluttz called her bank, received a full refund on April 9 for the fraudulent charges and has not had any incidences since then, although her hacker was never found.
Iris Stein and her family live in Chatham County and have been bombarded by emails, letters and phone calls attempting to confirm their information for new accounts created by a hacker using her husband’s name.
Around March 19, the same time as Kluttz’s experience, Stein received a phone call from what the voice over the phone said was PayPal confirming her credentials for a new credit account.
“It was strange because he [supposed PayPal employee] asked me a lot of weird questions like if packaging arrived at my house...it’s hard to tell who this person was that called me. So, I'm not sure if that's part of the scheme, but then the office letters started coming in the mail saying that 'we're investigating the fraudulent use of your identity and recommend that you get a police report filed,” Stein said.
According to Hutchens, closing an identity fraud case is a long, drawn out and aggravating process for victims. He and other members of the Bulloch County Sheriff's Office encourage victims to set up credit alerts, file a police report about the incident and to not talk to anyone on the phone unless they have made the call.
Hutchens said, “If you make the call to inquire about an account, you know who you're calling. If somebody calls you and you answer the phone, don't give them any identification information.”
Individuals who frequently post on social media sites pose a risk of having personal information stolen, especially when privacy settings are weak.
Online shoppers expose financial information when purchasing items online, increasing their risk of card fraud.
Some cases of identity fraud are carried out by people working inside of banks such as managers or employees.
49% of hackers commit identity fraud to specifically track down official government documents such as social security numbers.
Credit Card Accounts
16% of hackers open new credit card accounts or charge credit accounts through a variety of stores/markets.
10% of hackers set up new phone accounts after stealing identities/information
Hover over images for more. Statistics gathered from www.iii.gov