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      February 19, 2019

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Identity Theft in West Virginia

West Virginia MapDid you know that West Virginians reported more than 840 cases of identity theft in a recent 12-month period? This crime is on the rise throughout America and represents a billion-dollar industry for criminals.

The IRS recently informed taxpayers that tax-related identity theft is an issue. Unfortunately, honest citizens often aren't aware of the problem until they try to file their tax return for the year and are informed that one has already been submitted - and their much-anticipated refund went to the impostors who turned in the fraudulent, earlier version.

Criminals use identity theft to steal the information they need - social security numbers, birth dates, bank account numbers, and more - to gain access to medical care, even cosmetic surgery; to open up lines of credit at banks and car dealerships; to pass a background check for an apartment; or to gain employment using a name with a clean history, among other uses.

If you live in West Virginia, there are several companies that offer Identity Theft Protection services that monitor your personal information 24/7, flagging any suspicious activity immediately and taking steps to protect your credit rating and reputation. Given that many cases of identity theft aren't discovered until months or years later, these services offer invaluable peace of mind knowing that any problems will be handled immediately and effectively.

You should also take precautions to ensure that your identifying details do not wind up in the hands of the wrong people. Even though it is common for physicians' offices and other service providers to request your social security number, you have the right to refuse to give it, to ask why that information is necessary, and to find out how your information is protected at that location. Be careful not to disclose too many details in social media, thus providing would-be identity thieves with enough information to answer your "challenge" questions and bypass the login and password requirement. In these and other ways, you can make it less likely that identity theft will impact your life.


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