Julie Mack: 4 years after identity theft, criminals still hacking away

And those are just the highlights. My husband has gotten letters from PayPal to Menard’s to MasterCard about unsuccessful attempts to create accounts in his name.

The good news is we haven’t lost a dime so far. Our credit union reimbursed the money taken in the original theft. Social Security replaced the diverted funds. Sears absorbed the hit on the instant credit card.

In fact, in an odd turn of events, we actually reaped a financial reward. In sorting out the Social Security mess, it was discovered a mistake was made in calculating my husband’s benefits. Not only did the amount increase, but we got a four-figure check in back payments.

So what are the lessons learned from our experience?

Certainly, my husband says, he’s a cautionary tale about the dangers of phishing expeditions and giving out one’s Social Security number in response to an email, no matter how official looking.

Another lesson is the persistence of identity thieves. More than four years after the initial theft and many, many unsuccessful attempts to get more money, they still haven’t stopped trying.

A third and perhaps the most important point is how public and private entities leave themselves open to identity theft — something we’ve seen up close and personal.

Issuing instant credit, as Sears did, is asking for trouble. It appears to be ridiculously easy to hack Social Security accounts, and even after my husband’s account was flagged, someone was able to do it a second time. Likewise, it’s curious the IRS didn’t immediate reject the bogus 2013 tax return, considering it didn’t come with the special IRS-provided security number.

In one sense, my husband and I have been lucky. What’s happened to us could be so much worse, and we’ve been fortunate that each incident has gotten resolved fairly quickly.

But the real point is it shouldn’t be happening at all. At this point, each theft attempt we’ve experienced shows a glaring security problem. We can’t get rid of identity thieves, but we don’t have to make it so easy for them.

Julie Mack covers K-12 education and writes a column for Kalamazoo Gazette. Email her at jmack1@mlive.com, call her at 269-350-0277 or follow her on Twitter at kzjuliemack

Article source: http://www.mlive.com/opinion/kalamazoo/index.ssf/2014/03/julie_mack_irs_letter_marks_ye.html

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