Nov 01, 2013 Dave King
Despite longstanding efforts to combat it, identity theft remains a widespread problem.
According to The Plain Dealer, four Cleveland-based men were recently charged with using stolen identities to defraud state governments. Allegedly, the suspects were part of a scam known as the Full Circle Fund, which collected Social Security numbers by promising struggling families and individuals that they would help them get out of debt by providing them vouchers. The ring allegedly used this information to obtain more than $360,000 in unemployment benefits. One of the suspects is reported to have a history of identity theft that dates back to 2008, the news source noted.
Meanwhile, The Record Searchlight reported that the number of identity thefts in 2013 in Redding, Calif., has already exceeded last year. There have already been 250 reported cases this year, while 2012 saw a total of 240.
The town's police investigator Eric Harney predicted that a total of 350 identity thefts would be reported before 2014. He also emphasized that both businesses and law enforcement could take steps to prevent the incidents.
"Somebody is going to find some way to get something at one point from somebody. But there are things to slow [the crime] down. The biggest thing is taking away the convenience to [criminals]," Harney said, according to the news source.
Responding to the threat
Some of those steps are already being taken nationwide. According to MLive, Michigan is moving toward ending its status as the only state without a law on the books that protects residents' right to put freezes on their consumer credit reports. The Michigan State Senate passed the bill with a unanimous vote, and it will be up for consideration by the House Financial Services Committee later this week.
"It's a simple maneuver that needed to change in statute to allow consumers to put security freezes and thereby protect their kids and vulnerable adults and seniors from what has been estimated to be a $21 billion problem in the U.S. in identity theft," Sen. John Proos noted, according to MLive.
The Economic Voice reported that credit reporting agency Equifax is calling on businesses to strengthen their ID verification and authentication practices in light of recent research. Peter Harris, an executive at Equifax, noted that 58 percent of consumers believe they at greater risk of fraud than they were 12 months ago, while 77 percent said that identity thieves have become more sophisticated in their methods, according to the news source.