Combating Identity Theft

I recently had an opportunity to attend the second annual Government Identity Fraud Conference. This event gathered more than 150 government managers dedicated to protecting citizens from identity fraud and theft. Great dialogue and information sharing opportunity.

So what did we learn? Let’s start with ID theft and tax fraud. The IRS reported that through November 2015 it stopped more than 1.4 million fraudulent tax returns valued at $8 billion. Yes, billion! Many states are on the defensive as well, including Indiana, Georgia, Ohio, California, and others. During the past three years they, too, have stopped millions of dollars in fraudulent tax returns. For example, in 2014 Indiana stopped more than $88 in tax fraud attributable to identity fraud. These organizations demonstrate the significance of the problem, and I have not even addressed Medicare fraud, Medicaid fraud, unemployment fraud…etc. Experts tell us identity fraud is a multi-billion dollar business of organized crime. We’re not talking about your run-of-the-mill tax cheat here, but organized efforts to steal identities and use them to submit fraudulent claims for tax refunds, healthcare reimbursements, etc.

Those experts also tell us that — are you ready for this? — everyone’s identity has been stolen. Everyone is already compromised. And they are all available for sale on the “dark web” or the “deep web.” I’ll write more about those in future blogs.  Your identity has been stolen, it may not have been used just yet. The point to remember here is: be vigilant!

Why? Don’t believe this is a problem of epidemic proportions? The Identity Theft Resource Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to aiding victims of identity theft, reports that every 9 seconds someone becomes a victim of identity theft. Every 9 seconds!

Another point to keep in mind is that government entities are working to protect and defend citizens as best they can from identity fraud. Hence the conference and information sharing at all levels of government, city, county, state and federal. Know that there is a concerted effort to defend against these acts as well as to attack this problem aggressively at all levels of government. And this effort must continue to gain in sophistication and subtlety. Crooks are getting more sophisticated — and so must we. That’s part of what this conference does annually, share information and techniques to defeat these efforts.

In coming weeks I’ll attempt to outline, without giving away any secrets to the bad guys, where and how criminals are perpetrating this identity fraud and where the stolen money goes (you’re going to hate the answers), what governments are doing about it, and what citizens can do to combat the problem.

The conference was an outstanding opportunity for information sharing and collaboration. It’s part of the solution to this problem, so thanks to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and LexisNexis Risk Solutions for presenting the annual conference that allows government organizations to learn, discuss, collaborate and defeat the crooks. These organizations’ websites also provide good information about this topic.

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