My name is Lonnie and I am a victim of identity theft.

So check this out. A friend of mine wrote a post on Facebook about how someone stole her daughter’s social security number and filed for unemployment benefits with the Washington State Employment Security Division (ESD). Since it had never occurred to me, I decided to go to ESD and try to file an unemployment claim. After entering the information, I received the following message:

The social security number (SSN) you entered already exists and is linked to this partially hidden email address: *****@fasternet.co

THAT ?? !! ??!? I’ve never filed an unemployment claim in my entire life, and I’ve certainly never used an email address on rapidnet.co. Who is the # $% ^%! It is this?

I read more and saw the following message:

If you think you could be the victim of unemployment imposter fraud, when criminals illegally apply for unemployment benefits using someone else’s personal and work information, please report it! Use the form in the Employment Security Department (ESD) website. Then wait for ESD news.

I could not believe it. I was the first time in my life a victim of identity theft. And it didn’t go through the more traditional route of bank or credit card fraud; It was through unemployment benefit fraud.

While browsing the What do you do about it path, I learned a lot about the prevalence of identity fraud and how exposed it was. Experian, one of the three credit reporting companies, published some eye-emerging statistics (all as of 2017).

  • 158 million Social Security numbers exposed in data breaches

  • 14.2 million credit card numbers exposed

  • $ 905 million in total fraud losses

  • 13,852 reports of identity theft affecting children and adolescents

  • 60,000 reports of mail theft

  • 883,000 tax returns confirmed for identity theft

  • 27% of data breaches were related to medical or healthcare.

Identity theft is real. The bad guys are smart and only care about getting your money. The pain, frustration, and fear they leave behind mean nothing to them. If you think it can’t happen to you, you are living under a rock.

As a result of my experience, I decided to collect everything I did to verify fraud activity and the steps I took once I discovered that unemployment benefits fraud occurred. Hopefully these will help you too.

  1. Check your credit report at annual credit reportrt.com for fraudulent accounts. You can do this for free once a year. Don’t get carried away with a false sense of security if everything looks good. Things like unemployment benefits do not appear in the report. You need to do more research.

  2. Check to see if someone has used your SSN to file an unemployment claim. In Washington State, go to ESD Safe Access Washgton and follow the instructions to create a Secure Access Washington account. This is how I found out that someone filed unemployment benefits using my name and SSN.

  3. Request a Social Security AccOunt statement for any claim for benefits against your SSN.

  4. Request a IRS Transcrypt for your tax filing history.

  5. Check if your personal information was included in the Equifax breach which occurred between May and July 2017 that exposed the personal information of 140 million Americans. My SSN was one of 140 million.

If there has been fraudulent activity, take the following steps:

  1. Go to the Federal Trade Commission website Identitytheft.gov. The website guides you through the steps for your situation.

  2. File a fraud report in your state. In Washington he appears before meSouth Dakota.

  3. File a police report with your local police department.

  4. Submit a IRS identity theft Sworn declaration.

  5. Submit a Equifax Fraud alert. This lets the credit card companies know that you were the victim of identity theft. According to Equifax, this establishes additional controls to monitor fraudulent activity. They also notify Experian and Transunion of the theft. I can’t speak to whether it is effective right now, but I feel like it wouldn’t hurt to do so.

  6. If the theft was for medical reasons, file a health privacy complaint with the US Department of Health and Human Services.ice.

Regardless of whether you have fraudulent activity, I strongly recommend that you do the following:

  1. Place acrepeat freeze in your report with Formerperian, Transunion, and Equifax. A credit freeze restricts access to your credit report. However, if you plan to apply for a credit card, bank account, or mortgage, you need to unfreeze your credit with each of the bureaus and then freeze it again after the inquiry has been made. A slight inconvenience compared to someone opening a credit card in your name using your personal information.
  2. Set up email or text alerts with your bank and credit card companies for any transaction with an amount greater than zero. Large financial services companies offer alert options that you can customize. You’ll get an alert every time the card is used, which can be annoying for some, but again I’d rather delete a notification email or text message than have someone running rampant with my credit card or bank account.

  3. Set up two factor authenticationentication in your accounts. Also known as two-step authentication, this enforces a second type of authentication in addition to a password (that is, a text message, fingerprint, or email verification) if someone tries to log into one of your accounts.

  4. Use a cross-cut shredder for any document that contains personal information. This also includes any offers for financial services or credit cards that you may receive in the mail.

  5. If your state offers it, set up an account that allows you to register your SSN and access the online services of various state agencies. In Washington state this is called Secure Aaccess to Washington. You may need to do a little research on your status, but it’s worth it.

  6. Be careful with the use of public WIFI; consider using a Virtuto Private Network (VPN) if you access sensitive personal information on public networks.

  7. Be sure to also review the accounts of a loved one, spouse, partner, and children.

Identity theft is real and it can happen to you. The bad guys will never go away, but you can make it harder for them by putting some preventive measures in place to protect you and your loved ones from identity theft.

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