If you lose your wallet, someone can steal your identity and open bank accounts in your name. This could mean racking up bad credit and battling claims and fraudulent creditors for years. That’s what happened to Jessica Roy, associate editor of the LA Times’ Utility Journalism Team.
She says her wallet was taken out of her purse at a bar in 2018, but she didn’t give it much thought. “I didn’t really keep much in there. There was cash, my driver’s license, a few credit cards. [Then the] the next day I saw that they had made some transactions. I reversed them, I changed the cards. And I thought that was the end. »
However, months later, in mid-January 2019, she started getting a lot of mail.
“It was like, ‘Congratulations on your new Bank of America account. Congratulations on your new Wells Fargo account. We’re processing your Target card application.’ And I realized that they were using my identity to start opening new accounts.
Roy thinks the thieves may have obtained his social security number from the dark web. It’s common, according to his reports. Personal information like passwords or social security numbers come from data breaches and online hacks that happen all the time, and many people ignore them.
No one is safe, Roy said. “I talked in my story about the Equifax hack, which was in 2017, [and that impacted] 147 million Americans. [That is] personal information from a credit bureau. The reason you need to keep your identity so secure is because the credit bureaus track your every financial move, and they don’t even keep your data safe.
At every turn, Roy believed that because she was a journalist and did her due diligence, she would be able to stop fraudulent claims and transactions.
“I never thought this would happen to me. And when it happened I thought, ‘You know what, I’m going to take action’. I’m going to be over this. I’m going to making these phone calls and demanding that the banks fix things. And that’ll be the end of it. And they’re going to be super helpful and deal with it and close those accounts. And all of that will be a closed chapter.” But it continued.
Eventually, some arrests did occur in Roy’s case, which she says is rare. “It wasn’t because ‘oh, the police dug into my crime and worked night and day to solve this problem.’ It’s because [the suspects] were arrested and arrested for something else. And incidentally, they happened to have a bunch of my ID in the car with them.
Roy notes that the thieves repeatedly tried to access his email and bank accounts, but failed because they were secure. Things like two-factor authentication prevented bigger issues down the line.
“They called me pretending to be my bank and asked me to repeat my password as if it was a security question. And I realized I was like, ‘ Oh my God, it’s them. They call me on Christmas to try and steal my identity some more.'”
She adds, “I really think the conclusion I came to from going through this and reporting this story is that yes, there are steps you can take. Nothing is foolproof, and it’s a systemic problem that needs to be fixed.
She advises proactively freezing your credit and implementing two-factor authentication for every account, including email and bank accounts. As a resource, Roy has compiled a list of prevention tools and ways to respond to identity theft.