BCBA learns of specter of identity theft

Members of the Brooklyn Center Business Association learned about the complexities of identity theft, and how to better protect themselves against it.

During the BCBA’s Thursday, Feb. 23, luncheon, the association welcomed its featured speaker in the form of Julie Ann Guglielmo of LegalShield, who delivered a presentation on the growing threat of identity theft.

“It is a problem that is happening every single day,” said Guglielmo. “It’s messy, it’s scary, and without the proper defense in place, you will be responsible for restoring your identity and carry the full burden.”

According to Guglielmo, identity theft is the fastest-growing white collar crime in the county, with revenue from financial data trafficking outpacing that of drug trafficking. There were approximately 780 data breaches in 2015, with 177 million records being compromised.

Per Guglielmo, in 2015, Scottrade saw a breach of 4.6 million records; T-Mobile had a breach of 15 million records; the Army National Guard had a breach of 850,000 records; and Anthem Health saw 78.8 million records breached.

“Yahoo came out in 2016 in September and said there were 500 million records that were breached,” said Guglielmo. “A couple months later, they said… (there) was another billion on top of that 500 million records.”

Per the Identity Theft Resource Center, the healthcare industry had 276 breaches in 2015, with 121 million records compromised. The government had 63 breaches with 34 million records affected, while American businesses saw 312 breaches with 16 million records compromised.

“Statistics do not lie. They tell a story, and the story for 2016… (is that) $16 billion was stolen last year from 15 million Americans,” said Guglielmo. “That’s a 16 percent increase over 2015. There were almost 1,100 data breaches in 2016. It went up 40 percent (last) year. Every two seconds, someone becomes a victim of identity theft.”

Guglielmo touched on the legal burdens faced by victims of identity theft.

“It can take an average of 200 hours and up to six months to restore (one’s) identity,” said Guglielmo. “That burden is on you. That’s a lot of time away from your business, your employees. I have seen numbers of up to 600 hours… to restore your identity.

“Seventy percent of victims have difficulty removing that information off their credit reports,” Guglielmo added. “Do you think that’s a problem when you’re trying to apply for a loan?”

According to Guglielmo, there are five distinct forms of identity theft: Criminal, Social Security, Medical, Financial, and Synthetic. Criminal involves the use of one’s personal identifying information to commit a crime. Social Security theft entails the use of another person’s Social Security number to gain employment or commit tax fraud.

“The problem with medical identity theft is there’s no central repository that holds all that data with other types of aggregated data,” said Guglielmo. “So it’s really hard to track any medical identity theft.”

Financial identity theft was described as accounting for only 17 percent of complaints filed to the Federal Trade Commission. Finally, Synthetic identity theft involves the use of composite identity frauds.

“That is when identity thieves use multiple victims’ identities to create one of their own,” said Guglielmo. “So they’re going to take your driver’s license, they’re going to take your passport, they’re going to take your date of birth, they’re going to take your address, and all of your identity to create one of its own.”

Guglielmo said that identity thefts could negatively affect one’s ability to secure business loans, experience harassing debt collector calls, and more. Guglielmo offered the BCBA a number of tips to reduce suspectibility to identity theft.

“Make sure that you’re looking at your credit reports,” said Guglielmo. “There are three major credit bureaus. You get a free credit report from each of those credit bureaus once a year. If you time it right, you could be checking your credit report every four months.”

Guglielmo also said to regularly check account and billing information and keeping an eye out for unusual charges.

“Sometimes we might not get a bill in the mail. That can be alarming,” said Guglielmo. “There are people that are taking mail out of mailboxes. Make sure you’re calling the company and say, ‘Hey, what’s going on? Where’s my bill?’”

Individuals can also review the explanation of benefits provided by their medical insurer.

“Make sure that you don’t see any unusual office visits that you didn’t take,” said Guglielmo. “Call your health care provider and medical insurer if you see any activity on that explanation of benefits.”

Guglielmo also suggested protecting personal information by limiting what one carries on their person, shredding sensitive documents, and being alert to online impersonators.

For more information on protecting oneself from identity theft, visit julieannguglielmo.com.

Contact Christiaan Tarbox at [email protected]