RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Identity thefts cost $56 billion last year, according to the government, and the problem is growing.
One way to prevent yourself from being scammed is to learn from the mistakes of others.
“My childhood friend messaged me and told me DHHS was helping us — people on social security — with a one-time grant that we didn’t have to pay back,” said Sandra Garcia.
What Garcia didn’t realize at the time was her friend’s account had been hacked and it was actually a scammer posing as a so-called “government agent” who was about to steal all her personal information.
“He said, ‘This is easy, and I have just a few questions for you, and you’re all set,'” she recalled.
The “few questions” included asking for personal information, including her name and address, her mother’s maiden name, birthday, phone number, and monthly income.
Hours after she gave all that information away to the man, the requests began to bother Garcia and the red flags began flying.
“Why did he want my mother’s maiden name?” she asked.
Then there was a text and verbal warning from the so-called “government agent” warning her to keep all of her dealing with him quiet and not talk about it to anyone.
Garcia said the man asked her to keep it a secret because he claimed, “the money would soon be running out as they give it out.”
The man also asked for a photograph of her, supposedly to ensure the FedEx delivery man would know to whom he was giving the money.
At that point during the interview, Consumer Investigator Steve Sbraccia had to assume Garcia’s identity had been stolen by the man and Sbraccia asked her son to join them on the Zoom call.
Sbraccia outlined the steps her son would need to take to help his mom combat this situation before it got worse.
If you’ve had your identity stolen, here’s what you need to do:
- File a report with the Federal Trade Commission
- Notify companies of your stolen identity
- Place a fraud alert on your credit reports
- Freeze your credit
The FTC also has a recovery program that can be downloaded online.
Speed is crucial in reporting Identity theft. Federal law limits liability to $50 if you report it to the FTC within two days of discovering it. The longer you wait, the bigger your liability.