What’s Hot! ITRC’s Identity Theft Predictions for 2009
San Diego, CA (Dec. 16, 2008): Every year the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) shares its thoughts for the upcoming year. The following items are ITRC’s predictions for 2009:
Real Estate-based scams: There are multiple scams that attack the equity in a home or which may be used to establish a whole new home loan. Home Equity or Mortgage Frauds can be found on the Internet, local advertising and even via word of mouth. Some real estate scams include refinancing current loans, adding in unforecasted payments or property to increase the cost of the loan. Your home, while fully paid for, could even be entangled in a second mortgage without your knowledge. Due to the unfortunate turn in the real estate market, some home owners find themselves strapped and falling behind. Opportunistic scam artists might propose relief through a bogus land grant process. The best strategy for a home owner is to talk with your bank or mortgage company before engaging an unknown company.
Credit Card scams: With the current economy, credit will be tight. Thieves may advertise the ability to get credit cards despite a poor credit score or the lack of a Social Security number. There will continue to be more scams that offer to consolidate your credit card debt or to renegotiate your interest rates.
Other scams: Job scams are on the rise as people seek second sources of income. An example would be an offer to act as an account’s receivable clerk for a company outside the U.S. – opening an account, receiving checks, depositing them in the bank and then wiring them to the company. Consumers have also been receiving more “phishing” scam emails due to the merging of financial institutions and stores. These emails ask you to confirm your personal identifying information. Finally, a variety of emails reporting to be from the IRS have been circulating, including tax refund offers, audit information demands and verification of citizenship status. Don’t open attachments or go to another website due to cybercrime.
Professional thieves and targeted attacks: Along with law enforcement and the financial institutions, the ITRC is anticipating an increase in more sophisticated ways to “mine” information, sometimes by organized crime groups. Cybercrime, which includes transporting or selling large amounts of personal information from one group both nationally and internationally, will continue and expand. Part of this trend includes “skimming” (duplicate scanning of credit cards or debit cards), and fake fronts on payment scanners and ATM machines. Peripheral crimes, which use identity theft for funding, will continue and increase. Cybercrime is also tied to malware attacks on individual computers of consumers.
Check Fraud: As it becomes more difficult to get new lines of credit, identity thieves may be drawn more to commit check fraud. These crimes may take the form of stolen checks, using checks thrown into the trash by unknowing consumers or even synthetic checks. Synthetic checks typically have something that links them to a consumer, usually in the name and address section of the check. The checks may be for a closed account, an account that never existed or with a bank the consumer never used.
Breaches: Some companies, public entities and other groups that collect personal identifying information are cutting IT security staff. This may be due to apathy or to budget cuts. Targeted attacks of entities may increase as thieves develop improved techniques for hacking and other forms of illegal data acquisition, especially if fewer security measures are in place.
Other Identity Theft Crimes: ITRC anticipates an increase in the fraudulent use of SSNs for work by people who can not use their own Social Security number or who don’t have one. As law enforcement and the public realize that identity theft is not just a financial crime, the ITRC expects more calls from people regarding criminal and medical identity theft, and from those whose information is negatively impacted due to the actions of an identity thief. Finally, thieves are aware that the Social Security numbers of children, the deceased, the elderly and even critically ill patients are excellent opportunities for long term use of another’s information.
Increase in for-profit consumer products: This market has both positive and negative sides. There are some products in the market that meet the expectations presented and others that don’t. Consumers need to do their homework and understand that it is impossible at this time to completely protect a consumer from identity theft with the products currently available.
On the Positive Side: More collaborative efforts are being established to more deeply define the issues, isolate the problem areas and start policy statements on ways to deal with multi-faceted crimes. The Red Flag Compliance Laws (implementation July 2009) are a set of regulations set by the federal government which will help entities to audit their security programs, strengthen weak areas and set up written policies. However, it will be up to individual entities to enforce those policies.
The ITRC projects an increase in the training of law enforcement regarding identity theft, from local to federal levels. Federal law enforcement will be even more aggressive in their actions against international syndicates especially in cybercrimes and international job scam operations. The IRS has trained and expanded its IRS Taxpayer’s Advocate program to now assist victims of identity theft. The Crime Victims’ Rights Act finally includes white collar (including identity theft) crime victims.
Many states have made significant strides in stopping the use of the Social Security numbers as an identifier. We foresee the federal government addressing similar problems in the identification cards of military members and their dependents as well as those seniors using Medicare.
Conclusion- While there still are major problem areas, there are exciting new programs on the horizon. Additionally, we predict that there will continue to be an increase in the number of state and federal agencies and nonprofits that provide identity theft victim advisors at no charge or victims suffering losses and problems from this crime.
About the ITRC
The Identity Theft Resource Center® (ITRC) is a non-profit organization established to support victims of identity theft in resolving their cases, and to broaden public education and awareness in the understanding of identity theft. It is the on-going mission of the ITRC to assist victims, educate consumers, research identity theft and increase public and corporate awareness about this problem. Visit www.idtheftcenter.org
ITRC Identity Theft © This project was supported by Grant No. 2007-VF-GX-K038 awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Points of view in this document are those of the ITRC and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.