Check washing, a highly common form of check fraud, is the practice of removing legitimate check information, especially the “Pay To” name and the amount, and replacing it with data beneficial to the criminal (his own name or a larger amount) through chemical or electronic means. One of the many ways to protect yourself against check fraud is so important that it deserves its very own article.
A foolproof way to protect your checks from being altered, whether by washing or by electronic means, is to use security checks offered by most companies.
Every dollar counts, now more than ever, as the government searches for ways to wisely spend our money. It’s dismaying to learn that an audit report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has found that the impact of identity theft on tax administration is significantly greater than the amount the IRS detects and prevents. Even worse, the “IRS uses little of the data from identity theft cases…to detect and prevent future tax refund fraud” according to Mike Godfrey, Tax-News.
The IRS is detecting far fewer fake tax returns than are actually falsely filed. 938,700 were detected in 2011. On the other hand, TIGTA identified 1.5M additional undetected tax returns in 2011 with potentially fraudulent tax refunds totaling in excess of $5.2B.
The study predicted that the IRS stands to lose $21B in revenue over the next 5 years with new fraud controls, or $26B without the new controls.
Allowing our children the innocence of their childhood is paramount to us as parents. Because our children are pretty much the center of our universe, we want to do everything in our power to keep them safe and to safeguard their futures. In this information age, identity theft has become global in its reach and can have devastating consequences for our children’s futures if we’re not vigilant from the day they acquire a Social Security number.
Why are our kids, the very people we most want to protect, so vulnerable? Because they have unused, unblemished credit profiles. Richard Power, Distinguished Fellow, Carnegie Mellon CyLab, recently published the first ever child identity theft report based on identity protection scans of over 40,000 U.S. children. It is extremely alarming that 10.2% of the children in the report had someone else using their Social Security numbers. That figure is 51 times higher than the rate for adults of the same population.
Child Identity theft is the fastest growing sector of the identity theft “industry,” and the numbers are staggering. Although it’s difficult to estimate exactly how many children lose their identities since the crime can go undetected for years, the FTC states that 5% of identity theft cases target children, which translates into 500,000 kidnapped child identities per year, and growing. The Carnegie Mellon CyLab Report states that in 54% of the cases, the child was under the age of 14.
The identity thief is not always a stranger. In many cases, it’s a relative with bad credit who takes advantage of a child’s pristine credit. Conveniently, these family members generally have access to the information necessary to maximize the fraud with little attention. This seems absurd, but imagine a parent who is strapped for cash, has a bad credit score and needs to buy groceries. In this case, short-term thinking blinds the relative or friend to long-term consequences. In other instances, the child’s future is not taken into consideration at all.
Based on a recent assessment of 40,000+ SSNs of children, it was found that more than 10% those SSNs were being used by someone other than the child, far in excess of the rate of misuse in the adult population. The study points out the major issues that surround child identity theft and why we need to start paying attention now. It is more prevalent than many think and the threat is growing. Here are a few of the statistics that were found:
4,311 or 10.2% of the children in the report had someone else using their Social Security number – 51 times higher than the 0.2% rate for adults in the same population
Child IDs were used to purchase homes and automobiles, open credit card accounts, secure employment and obtain driver’s licenses
The largest fraud ($725,000) was committed against a 16 year old girl