When it comes to protecting ourselves from ID theft, our problem is that most of us don’t think the same way that a criminal does.
Good legal advice becomes vital because an attorney who has presided over such cases can share some of the methods that ID thieves may use.
Our guest editor this week brings both legal and judicial background to bear in revealing one of the more sophisticated methods of stealing your identity.
Hello, I am Judge Kathy Brown Valencia, one of Fayette County’s Magistrate Judges, and I am often amazed at the complexity of identity fraud crimes. I am researching identity fraud crimes, so if you have a story to tell, please contact me at Facebook.com/kathybrownvalencia2020.
Here is a crime that involves missing mail and identity theft. Here is a recount of what happened by one victim:
“The neighbors of Graystone Court realized that we had all been the victims of transaction card fraud and identity theft. We were informed of the crime when the Post Office discovered that almost everyone on Graystone Court had allegedly signed up for “informed delivery notification” but the notifications were being sent to fake email addresses that belonged to criminals. This scheme allowed the criminals to know exactly what day certain items would be in our mailboxes. For those of you who don’t know what “Informed delivery notification” is, it is a service of the Post Office where your mail is photographed as it is processed and you get an email with pictures of the mail that will come to you that day. The problem with this service is that, if a criminal signs up under your name and address and then puts in his email address, the criminal then knows what mail you are getting each day. The “informed delivery notification” is the first phase of this crime.
The second phase of the crime is when the criminals, who have possession of your identity, your address, your phone number, and your credit card numbers due to the security breaches such as the Equifax breach, call your credit card company and pretend to be you. The criminals have your phone number and they “spoof” your number, so that to the credit card company, the call appears to be coming from your home phone number or your cell number. The criminal then pretends to be you and tells the credit card company that the credit card has been “lost” and a new card is needed. Notice that the criminal is not asking for a new account to be opened; therefore, if you have “frozen” your credit, you are not protected from this crime. The criminal is just asking for a replacement card for the already existing account. The credit card company is tricked into sending a new card to you.
The criminals use the informed delivery notification to the fake email to know which day to send someone to grab your mail out of your mailbox. You do not even know that a new card is coming to you unless your credit card company has notified you by calling or by email. The criminal steals your mail, uses the credit card for a few days, runs up a high bill, and then throws the card away. In the case of the Graystone Court victims, the whole street was hit with the scam at the same time so that the criminals were stealing mail for a few days from that one location.
In our situation, at least 4 of us had received legitimate emails from our credit card companies stating that new credit cards had been requested by us. Of course, none of us had requested new cards. When we called the credit card companies to tell them that we had not requested a new card, the agents told us that someone had spoofed our home phone numbers, knew our mothers’ maiden names, knew our ss#, knew our addresses and credit card numbers, and had called and pretended to be us. The credit card company sent a new card to my home address because the criminals had answered the security questions correctly. The police indicated this scam has been perpetrated in several locations in Fayette County but, to date, no arrests have been made.”
The story above by one of the victims is of great concern on many levels, but what can you do to protect yourself in some way? First, if you receive any kind of notice from your credit card company that your “new card” is arriving soon, and you have NOT requested a new card, notify the company immediately. Second, you may want to consider changing your mailbox to a secured mailbox that allows mail to be dropped into it, but does not allow incoming mail to be taken out of it without a key. Finally, ask your credit card company to send you new cards through UPS , Fed-Ex , or a delivery method other than regular mail. Some companies are already doing this.
If you have any questions about this or other identity fraud issues, please contact me, Judge Kathy Brown Valencia, at Facebook.com/kathybrownvalencia2020 and I hope you will visit the site so that I may earn your vote in the upcoming May-June election.