Weak Economy Driving Rise in Identity Theft

Leah Napoliello is the senior director for investigative services for the Better Business Bureau’s Houston office. Napoliello says hard times are bringing swindlers of all kinds out of the woodwork, but describes identity theft as one of the fastest growing types of fraud.

“Identity theft is only getting worse as these scammers are trying to find new methods to scam people and get their money or financial information.”

A classic ploy involves the thief impersonating a bank’s credit card officer, calling to alert a customer to questionable transactions on his account, then asking him to verify his account information. Napoliello says that as marks get warier, ID thieves are getting more sophisticated.

“Just because you see the name of a bank on your caller ID, that doesn’t mean it’s actually from the bank. And if certain companies don’t have protections in place, then they can have their phone numbers even hijacked, their e-mails, that sort of thing.”

Texas reported over 24,000 cases of identity theft in 2010, the last year for which the Federal Trade Commission has complete statistics. A quarter of those came from Greater Houston.

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