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FTC, Debt.com stats show 2916% surge in identity theft in US, PR

The COVID-19 pandemic is being blamed for an increase of 2916% of identity theft reports filed in the US and Puerto Rico, mostly related to government benefits, credit cards and online sales, statistics from the Federal Trade Commission and Debt.com show.

Debt.com’s data shows that 46% of people whose identity was stolen was related to credit cards, making it the most common form of fraud, other than tax fraud, loan fraud, and bank fraud, among others.

To combat this situation, the Puerto Rico Bankers Association recommends using credit cards with chips because they are more secure, as well as being careful when using ATMs due to possible hacks.

Another way hackers could reach out may be through calls, emails, messages, or website links, like the circulating ATH Movil calls in Puerto Rico that ask for personal information, account information or passwords that may lead to identity theft.

Meanwhile, 44% of people between the ages of 20-29 reported fraud activity to the FTC, while people 70 years or older have lost more money from their accounts, estimated at more than $1,000.

“An option could be that with double authentication tools, companies can better secure the identity of their employees and reduce the chances of being hacked,” said CPA Jorge Paredes.

“With this type of application, you must enter credentials and password, as well as a different code created by the same tool each time you go to enter the system,” said Paredes, who added that authentication tools will keep evolving once people start implementing them more for their companies or accounts to be able to manage the problem.

Education is the most important solution, and banks on the island are looking to guide people to not share sensitive information on phone calls, as well as carefully guiding elders, he said.

With the surge in online sales, the trade organization also suggests making sure the digital store is authentic, having a strong password, having electronic devices up to date and even having a steady internet connection.

And with holiday sales underway, the PRBA noted that when having the choice of making in-person purchases, the person should make sure that no one sees their card pin number by covering the pad with their hand.

If signs of possible hack come up, the person should verify their credit records, notify the FTC and the bank so they can prove it and remove the fraudulent actions from the account to prevent it from happening again.

Lastly, Paredes suggests that if hacked, the person could also close the account and open a new one with new cards and numbers.

And if the person has other accounts that were not affected in the process, they could consider requesting a credit check for that account and report the situation again, the CPA noted.

Author Details
Author Details
Yamilet Aponte-Claudio was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She graduated from Colegio Nuestra Señora de la Providencia and is currently a sophomore at Sacred Heart University. Majoring in Journalism and adding a minor in accounting and foreign languages, she aspires to study law after obtaining her bachelor’s degree.
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