Jason interviews Michael about how to protect yourself against ID theft.
Michael Bruemmer is the Vice President of Consumer Protection with Experian.
Below is the full transcript:
Announcer: Welcome back, America to Sound Retirement Radio, where we bring you concepts, ideas and strategies designed to help you achieve clarity, confidence and freedom as you prepare for and transition through retirement. Now, here is your host Jason Parker.
Jason: America, so glad to have you back on the program this morning. You’re listening to episode 131, if you’re driving the road this morning in Seattle and you can’t capture this whole program, I want to remind you that we archive all of these shows for your listening enjoyment, and you can find that at soundretirementplanning.com., episode 131.
As you know, we’re always looking to bring exerts onto this program who, we believe, can make your life better as you’re preparing for and transitioning into and through retirement. I’ve got a guest for you that we’ll bring on in just a minute, but before I do, you know that we like to start the morning right by renewing our minds. I have a verse here for us. This one is Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.” That’s awesome.
Then I know how much you guys like our jokes in the morning, something if you’re going to go visit with the grandkids, you can share with them. Actually, I have two jokes for you. Here’s the first one. What did one toilet say to the other? You look a bit flushed. Now, let me tell you, my daughter is nine years old and she came downstairs the other day and she said, “Dad, I’ve got a joke for you.” I said, “Okay, what’s that?” She said, “What did one golfer say to another golfer? Do you want to go for a walk?” Go for a walk. That is what we call generational blessings from … to hear my daughter sharing corny jokes. Boy, that was a good morning.
Okay. This morning’s episode, 131, this is … the title of the show is How Do You Protect Against ID Theft? It is my good fortune to bring Michael Bruemmer onto the program. He’s the Vice President of Consumer Protection at Experian. Michael, welcome to Sound Retirement Radio.
Michael: Jason, thanks for having me. I look forward to it.
Jason: Absolutely. This is a big deal, in fact, it wasn’t too long ago, Michael, I was reading in the newspaper here locally that identity theft had become the number one crime in our state. I’m glad that you are here to share some of your insight and wisdom with our listeners. The first question I have for you, how prevalent is identity theft among retirement aged adults?
Michael: Some overall statistics, just to put it into perspective. You’ve mentioned identity theft is the number one reported crime to the Federal Trade Commission. Specifically, according to the Department of Justice, there were 2.1 million Americans affected by it in 2012, but that’s gone up to the most recent numbers we have in 2014 to 2.6 million people. Both on the low end of the spectrum, children, and particularly retirees on the top end of the spectrum are two or three times more likely to suffer identity theft than those in the middle aged bracket.
Jason: Really? Children? I wouldn’t have expected that. Any idea what’s going on? We’ll get into the retiree section in a minute here, but that children one kind of surprises me. What’s happening there?
Michael: In many cases, parents are not monitoring for the creation of a credit file. If you’re not looking for it, someone could get your kid’s social security number, which is now is created literally within the first 24 hours after they’re born, and they give you an application in the hospital. If left unchecked, a child could have a credit file, let alone accounts, or mortgages, or lines of credits opened in their name. Without paying attention to it or their guardian or parent paying attention to it, the identity thieves can use that virgin social security number to do a lot of damage.
There’s been some major things done on the networks where millions of dollars have been extended on someone else’s identity, when it’s left unchecked. It’s a real problem. Child identity theft its happening at a rate of … there’s about two million kids per a year on average that have identity theft. Anybody under the age of 18.
Jason: Wow, that’s incredible. That just makes me angry, actually. How about with retirees? Why would you say they’re being targeted and more so than middle aged folks?
Michael: A couple of things. One, because they’ve worked so hard throughout their lives and amassed financial assets, and that combined with the fact they grew up in an era, for the most part, they weren’t paying attention to some things. They don’t have a proficiency in use of some of the online tools that are available for free, or even paying attention to those things, let alone there’s some just simple things, like some recent scams going around, where callers will call and only ask if you are the person on the other end and you reply yes, and they can use that voiceprint of yes to scam you at your bank account, or on your bank account with your local financial provider, and get into your account using the automated voice recognition system.
There’s other things too, like just not paying attention to unwanted solicitations in the mail, losing documents, providing your social security number, or medical insurance ID to someone else that copies it and then uses it later on to commit identity theft. There’s a number of things that bombard a retiree that’s not paying attention to some of the things that could potentially happen by giving away their personal identity information.
Jason: Michael, just a moment ago, you’ve mentioned a scam where people call you up and they get you to say something over the telephone. I actually had this happen to me just a couple of weeks ago. A gentleman calls up and he says he’s with the local cable company and he says, “I just wanted to call and check to see if your internet is running.” I thought, “This is the weirdest call I’ve ever had,” and so I just … The first things that came to my mind, I said … and he called me on my cellphone, which very few people have that number, but I just said to him, I said, “Hey, is this some kind of scam?” He goes, “Oh, no, no, no, no, no, this isn’t any kind of scam.” I just hung up the phone. I didn’t do anything and then I blocked that number from being able to call me ever again.
The cable company is not going to be calling me asking me if my internet’s running. It was just interesting. I don’t know if it was the front end of the scam, or what it was, or if it was practical just a joke, but I think we’re all susceptible to these things. What are some of the common ways that retirees specifically make themselves vulnerable to identity theft?
Michael: What we see, there are two areas that we’re seeing a lot of identity theft. One most recently with the tax season that we just completed. There are a lot of times, when your financial information, especially if you’re filing for a refund, can be used with the social security number, someone will get that in advance of you filing your own return with the IRS and get a refund in your name. That’s particularly prevalent during the tax season.
The other thing we see is medical identity theft among retirees. A couple of tips for prevention on this is make sure that you keep track of all your medical records, statements and insurance information. As I said earlier on the show, don’t give away your medical insurance ID, or social security number, even at the doctor’s office, don’t let it out of your sight, don’t let anybody copy it. In most cases, even at a doctor’s office, you’re not required to provide your social security number to receive services. Those are a couple of tips right there that I would give your listeners.
Jason: Okay. What’s interesting is you’re with Experian, Michael. You’re the Vice President of Consumer Protection at Experian. I think most of us think of Experian as one of the places we go to check on our credit score. Why are you guys involved in talking about identity theft? How is this impacting Experian as a company?
Michael: One of the areas of the business I’m responsible for is called Data Breach Resolution. Unfortunately, we live in an age, where there are thousands of security incidents and data breaches with companies. There are some big names that have been out there, most recently Yahoo had over a billion user name and passwords and email accounts compromised. There was the Target breach, Home Depot, P. F. Chang’s. You can’t go by a week without reading about a data breach.
Our group, actually, helps businesses, after a data breach, comply with the legal notification to consumers, setting up a call center to have individuals call in and ask questions, but most importantly, we’ll provide identity theft protection to those victims of a breach, so that they will be protected and not have a problem, either with monitoring their information going on, or if something becomes suspicious, they have a fraud resolution agent to help them. The last calendar year, we serviced about 3,900 breaches in total, impacting almost 80 million people. It’s a very big happening right now. As I mentioned, there are a lot of seniors, particularly involved in healthcare breaches that have been impacted by them.
Jason: Healthcare breaches, now, that’s another area. I think most people think of identity theft data breach is somebody gets a hold of their credit card and starts charging it. What you’re saying is this medical identity theft is becoming a bigger issue. Will you shed a little bit more light on that? What that looks like? And what’s happening?
Michael: What may happen there, the two most important use cases that we see, where medical information is stolen and then resold to people are for a circumstance where you have a preexisting condition and you can’t qualify for insurance coverage, or you have no insurance coverage altogether. Let’s say you’re coming in as an immigrant from outside the United States, you don’t have health insurance, but on the dark web, you can pick up someone’s identity, including their medical insurance ID for anywhere between $40 and $50 and you’ve got that information to be able to go in and get, let’s say, a major operation, or a plastic surgery, or a blood transfusion.
Not only is there a huge financial impact, but it can also be a life and death situation, where we’ve seen where someone goes in and uses your medical insurance information, particularly at a location where you’ve also had services provided, and let’s say the next time you come in, someone who had a different blood type, or a different allergic history, is in front of you and has had those services performed, and the doctor that’s working on you in the emergency room sees that you have a particular blood type that’s really not yours and they mix a blood type, or give you a medication that you’re actually allergic to that the other person wasn’t, it actually becomes life-threatening.
Jason: Wow. Man, that is just really scary. You’ve mentioned a minute ago the dark web. What do you mean by that?
Michael: Dark web is an area, unlike the open web, where you can have access to Google, look-ups and searches, or conduct online purchasing, like within Amazon. The dark web is a very inaccessible part of the web that is very hard to get into, but where people, just like in Amazon, but these are people that have stolen your information, can set up a website and actually transact with people selling and buying stolen identity information. Most of the websites are created overseas, out of the jurisdiction of local and federal law enforcement, but it’s a very active marketplace that operates illegally.
Jason: Wow. We talk about protecting your identity. Again, I get back to this idea that most people think about that in terms of credit card fraud, or some kind of transaction that’s hitting your credit score. How in the world do you keep track of something like medical identity theft? Does that show up on a credit report?
Michael: Medical identity theft shows up generally in a couple of places. I mentioned, we just talked about the dark web, and one of the services that we have as part of our monitoring offering, we look for information out on the dark web. You would supply your stolen, let’s say, insurance card information, your email address, and with the technology that we have, we can search the dark web to see if someone is actually buying or selling that information.
At the same time, if someone uses your medical ID, generally they’re not going to pay for the services, maybe because they can’t afford it, or they’re just moving on to someone else’s identity and using this. It will end up hitting a delinquency portion of your credit report, so that in fact, it will show up on there. Those are a couple of ways that our … the products that we provide to affected consumers actually can detect medical identity fraud and catch it before it gets bad, and then we can work with our fraud resolution team to unwind the issue.
Jason: It makes sense that experience in the space, because you guys are keeping all this data on people’s credits and you’re helping them deal with identity theft after it happens. It sounds like you guys have a service that you provide to help people protect against identity theft. I want to ask you some questions about that, because I know there’s a lot of these different identity theft services out there, Michael. If you were trying to help your grandmother understand what it is that she should be looking for in an identity theft protection service, what should people be considering?
Michael: I always like to tell people there are a lot of free tools that are available, that are very simple, and some suggestions before you go to the extent of purchasing an identity theft protection product. I’ll give you a couple of those. I mentioned monitoring your accounts and your credit information. Online, most of the financial institutions and credit card providers have the ability to monitor each one of your transactions that you make, so you can see those. Those are free services you can sign up for in your local bank, or credit card provider can help you sign up for that, and those are free services.
The other thing is there is the annualcreditreport.com site and it’s spelled just like it’s pronounced annualcreditreport.com, and you can get a free copy from each one of the three credit bureaus once per a year without having to sign up for any other service. Then, there’s also even at Experian, just to get a copy of your Experian credit report, you can visit www.Experian.com and get a free copy of that report. Those are some of the free services.
During a breach event, let’s say your hospital provider, your financial institution, someone you transact online has a data breach and you’re provided a free membership to identity theft protection, we always encourage you to sign up. With those services, regardless of whether they’re from Experian, or another provider, they’re going to monitor for any changes in your credit file. They’ll generally provide you with monitoring on the dark web. You also have identity theft protection insurance. Most importantly, you have someone that you can call if you have a question about what you’re seeing, or how the service works, or if you have a problem, they’ll have an identity theft restoration specialist that can walk you through how to restore your identity. There’s lots of different options out there, but you can check and, at any point in time, you can always go to the Experian website and there’s some suggestion there, as well.
Jason: If people come to you and they say, “Michael, I shred all of my mail and I don’t get on the internet.” Are they free from having to worry about identity theft?
Michael: Unfortunately, Jason, the simple answer is no, because your information, regardless of whether you’re completely off the grid at this point, and you’re not transactioning, you don’t have any credit cards, your information, because it’s held in the social security administration, you have to have a social security number, you’ve transacted at some bank, probably at some point in time, there are a very few people that have gone through their lives only transacting in cash. Your information is already out there.
You may have cut back and gone off the grid at this point, but once it’s out there in this electronic age, or once you provided it at some point in time … like the first time you got a mortgage, once it’s out there at the bank, you can’t get it back, even though you may not have a mortgage now and you paid off all your debts. I still believe that people shouldn’t be lulled into a sense of security, although it’s a good thing that they’re being more protective with their information now. Once it’s out there, it’s out there.
Jason: Okay. Folks, I just want to remind you, you’re listening to episode 131. The title is How Do You Protect Against ID Theft. I have Michael Bruemmer on the program. He’s the Vice President of Consumer Protection at Experian.
Just recently, a couple of months ago, I had somebody calling our house, leaving messages, saying that they were the IRS, and that they were going start putting liens on our accounts, if we didn’t call them back. Of course, I know this is bogus, but still, you get a call that says they’re the IRS and they’re going to put liens on your accounts and your heart rate goes up a little bit. You think, “Oh my goodness, what is going on?”
The good news is we didn’t call them back and we knew it was a scam, but boy, if they’re calling my house and they’re calling my cellphone, I know you’re probably getting these same calls. Michael, you guys at Experian have developed a tool to help protect against this. If people want to learn more about the tool that Experian’s providing, how can they learn more about that?
Michael: The best website to learn, we actually have up there is www.Experian.com/databreach. Databreach is all one word. It will give you some consumer tips how to protect yourself, it will tell you some facts and explanations about identity theft. There’s also some interesting whitepapers. That’s probably the best site that I could recommend for just general knowledge about identity theft.
Jason: Okay. We only have a couple of minutes here, but what if somebody has become a victim of identity theft? What’s their first call? What do they do to start unwinding that?
Michael: Depending on what it is, so let’s use a couple of examples. If they have a suspicious credit card charge, they should automatically call their credit card company. Same thing with a bank, if they have a charge that they don’t recognize, or something going on that they don’t recognize, call the bank.
The other thing to do is make sure don’t answer … we talked a number of times, Jason, during the show about suspicious calls. Just don’t pick up the phone. If somebody calls you, asking for information and you’re not expecting it, just hang up without saying anything more. That’s the best thing.
You can also call your provider, whether it’s your internet service provider that has your phone and internet, or the phone company and to tell them, “Just, please, block that call, so it doesn’t happen again.” Those are really the first point of contact. Next, if you want to sign up for an identity theft protection service, again, go to www.Experian.com, there are some free options, or some paid options, as well.
Jason: Folks, I remember, it wasn’t all that long ago that the Office of OPM, Office of Personnel Management, federal employees, I believe, they were hacked, and I don’t know if it was Experian that was providing the identity theft, but the federal government stepped in and said, “Hey, we’re gonna make some free identity theft available to everybody who was impacted by that,” so like Michael Bruemmer was saying, you hear about these data breaches all the time. Yahoo, Target, Home Depot, P. F. Chang’s, the federal government. As much as we’d like to think that we’re doing everything we can to protect ourselves, this is a big deal. Michael Bruemmer, I wanted to say thank you for being a guest on the program today.
Michael: Jason, thanks for having me, I appreciate it, and I also appreciate you highlighting this very important issue for your listeners.
Jason: Absolutely. Folks, this is Jason Parker, until next week singing out.
Announcer: Information and opinions expressed here are believed to be accurate and complete, for general information only, and should not be construed as specific tax, legal, or financial advice for any individual, and does not constitute a solicitation for any securities or insurance products. Please, consult with your financial professional before taking action on anything discussed in this program. Parker Financial, its representatives, or its affiliates have no liability for investment decisions or other actions taken or made by you based on the information provided in this program. All insurance-related discussions are subject to the claims paying ability of the company. Investing involves risk. Jason Parker is the President of Parker Financial, an independent, fee-based wealth management firm located at 9057 Washington Avenue Northwest, Silverdale, Washington. For additional information, call 1-800-514-5046, or visit us online at soundretirementplanning.com.