Scams come in every variety and target every segment of the population. From the grandparent scam to the get-rich-quick ploy, the common thread in each scenario is someone is faking their identity or trying to steal yours.
In San Diego County, our office prosecuted 2,800 cases involving some form of identity theft over the last five years.
But as you’ve heard from me before on this topic, many cases go unreported because victims are ashamed of getting duped, especially senior citizens.
San Diego County alone sees more than 1,000 elderly victims get defrauded each year, losing an estimated $20 million to $30 million to scams.
But the elderly are not the only people being scammed. According to the Federal Trade Commission, a consumer protection agency, millennials are 25% more likely to report losing money to fraud than people 40 and over.
The top five frauds to which the younger group reports losing money include:
• Online shopping fraud
• Business imposters
• Government imposters
• Fake check scams
• Romance scams
Identity theft is the top fraud type reported in California, according to a report from the FTC.
In general, identity theft is when someone represents that they are you by using your personal information for fraudulent or other improper purposes.
When it comes to this type of crime, California is ranked 14th in the country for identity theft reports, according to the same report.
To avoid becoming a victim of identity theft, such as credit card fraud, keep these tips in mind:
• Never give out personal information such as bank account or credit card numbers to anyone who calls you.
• If you suspect a scam, simply hang up.
• Keep your mail secured. Stolen mail can easily lead to identity theft.
• Invest in a shredder and shred any mail with personal identifying information and “courtesy checks.”
• Create different passwords for each of your online accounts.
• Enable two-factor authentication on financial and online accounts.
• Review financial statements regularly for unauthorized charges.
• Review credit reports annually for unauthorized accounts.
• Do not leave wallets or documents with your personal information in your vehicle.
• Do not carry your social security card.
• Lock up your personal information kept in your residence.
• Do not respond to unsolicited emails that request personal information.
• Do not click on links unless you verify a legitimate source of the email independently
• If you’ve been a victim of ID theft, freeze your credit.
• If you’ve been scammed, report it to law enforcement or the FTC.
Last year, the District Attorney’s Office partnered with the Identity Theft Resource Center to provide a live chat box on our public website in an effort to support victims of identity crimes.
You can chat with a live agent in English or in Spanish about issues related to identity theft, identity fraud and data breaches.
For more information, go to SanDiegoDA.com and search for identity theft.
The DA’s Consumer Protection Unit is composed of deputy district attorneys, investigators and paralegals dedicated to protecting consumers and law-abiding businesses from fraudulent or unfair business practices.
To report that your personal identifying information has been unlawfully used by another, contact the local law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction over your actual residence or place of business.
Summer Stephan has served as district attorney of San Diego County since 2017.