The state of Texas is the highest in the country when it comes to identity theft. You might expect it to rank among the top since it’s also among the biggest in the nation. But one expert says the main problem we have here is we’re a border state and illegal immigrants like to use the identities of legal citizens in order to get jobs.
“The largest complaint is that such individuals like this are coming here, stealing our personal information to apply for jobs and then they file taxes and beat us to the punch, so when we go to file with the IRS, the IRS says, ‘sorry you’ve already filed and received your return with this social security number’.”
Tami Nealy works for LifeLock. You’ve may have seen their television commercial where the CEO gives out his social security number to all America. Nealy says it’s not just immigrants who want your personal information for job purposes.
“You know there’s individuals out there who have a criminal background and they’re not being accepted for jobs, because when employers do a background search they found out that you’ve got a criminal record and you’re at risk. So those types of individuals are stealing identities to gain employment as well.”
These days most people are aware their personal information can be stolen, but it still happens. The number of reported ID thefts in Houston went up by almost fifteen percent from 2007 to 2008. That’s because the big time thieves aren’t getting the information from a wallet you dropped or a paper you signed.
“Identity thieves are smart. They want to go to once central clearing house that they can get hundreds or hundreds of thousands of identities at one time. Let’s say an alumni association for instance. You’ve given your social security number there. They have your information so a hacker could go and break into their system or they could pay somebody that works there and say ‘hey I’m going to give you fifty dollars for every piece of personal information that you give to me’.”
One of the things you can do to keep yourself from being a victim is to place a fraud alert with the credit bureaus. What that means is anytime someone tries to apply for credit in your name, they have to call you to verify first. And that’s one of the ways that CEO is able to give out his social on national television. Nealy says every week he gets a call from a bank or credit institution asking if it’s really him. And every time he has to tell them no.
Bill Stamps, KUHF Houston Public Radio News.