On June 26, 2013, members of the Schneider Downs Higher Education Industry Group attended and presented at the 2013 EACUBO Pittsburgh Workshop at the Four Points Sheraton in Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania. The event was also attended by approximately 75 individuals from 20 different colleges and universities.
The workshop encompassed a wide range of topics from accounting, real estate tax exemption, risk management, industry trends and etc. One particular session, titled “Identity Theft and Other Financial Crimes,” proved to be an eye opening experience. Its emphasis was to discuss the impact of identity theft and some common schemes perpetrated by criminals.
Here are some of the key highlights from that session:
- For the 12th year in a row, identity theft was the #1 consumer complaint to the FTC with approximately 7% of adults affected at an average loss of $3,500 and it took approximately 25 hours to repair the damage. And these were just the ones that were reported to the FTC.
- 9-18% of victims do not discover their identity has been stolen for 4 or more years.
- Medical identity theft occurs when thieves steal identities for the purpose of receiving free medical care and as a result create false medical records for the victim which could result in incorrect treatment for the victims and denial of legitimate medical claims.
- Child identity theft is often perpetrated by a family member and the victims are often under the age of 5.
- Senior identity theft accounts for approximately 28% the reported cases.
- Government identity theft is often occurs when thieves file fraudulent income tax returns to receive refundable credits such as earned income or child tax credits always paid by debit card.
- Credit cards with a computer chip installed can be scanned using technology from a few feet away. Recommend wrapping those cards in tinfoil to block the signals.
- Thieves install fake devices to ATM machines that scan all of your information when you swipe your card. This information, along with the camera installed in the pamphlet next to the machine enables the thieves to access your bank account.
It was an eye opening experience for most everyone in the room. So what can you do personally to mitigate the risk?
The following suggestions were made to limit identity theft exposure:
- Review bank statements and credit card statements monthly.
- Install anti-virus software on computers and cellphones.
- Keep usernames and passwords in a safe place and change them periodically.
- Shred sensitive material.
- Promptly remove mail from mailbox and deposit outgoing mail in secure receptacles only.
- Do not respond to unknown or “phishing” emails.
- Ensure information provided over the internet is encrypted and the site is secure.
- Never give out personal information over the phone.
- Order and review your credit report once a month.
I don’t know about everyone else, but I do know I am making some changes to how I handle sensitive information.
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This advice is not intended or written to be used for, and it cannot be used for, the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties that may be imposed, or for promoting, marketing or recommending to another person, any tax related matter.