I hate statistics.
It’s not that I hate math. I mean, I don’t love it, but I’m good at it. Numbers make sense to me, and, unlike most people (including me) they never lie – and I looooove word problems. I know, I’m weird – but hearing “two trains leave the station…” gets my blood pumping. Word problems are multi-step puzzles without missing pieces.
I know that I’m not alone – a quick Google search of that phrase comes back with “about 221,000,000 results” in .61 seconds. There’s even an “I hate statistics” website.
So imagine my dismay at discovering I’ve become one – and not a fun statistic, like being one of the 1 in 42 million who win the California super lotto.
I am a victim of identity theft. Again, I’m not alone. As per this 2022 article from Fortunly, 33% of US citizens have been victims of identity theft, with over 49 million victims in 2020.
I am “lucky” in that he/she/they/the motherf-er “only” used my information to file an unemployment claim. It seems counterintuitive to do so little with my information (not that I’m not grateful) but, per my conversation with the EDD, it’s increasingly common. Criminals buy data in bulk when there’s a breach, and file thousands of claims. I don’t know about you, but filing thousands of unemployment claims seems like a lot of work.
I don’t want you to join me. Nerdwallet has great tips for preventing identity theft, including:
- Be alert to to phishing and spoofing. Scammers can make phone calls appear to come from government entities or businesses, and emails that appear to be legitimate may be attempts to seal your information. Initiate a callback or return email yourself, working from a known entity such as the official website, rather than responding to a call or email. And be wary of attachments-many contain malware.
- Watch your mailbox. Stolen mail is one of the easiest paths to a stolen identity. Have your mail held if you’re out of town. Consider a U.S. Postal Service-approved lockable mailbox. You can also sign up for Informed Delivery though the USPS, which gives you a preview of your mail so you can tell if anything is missing.
- Shred, shred, shred.
Lastly, stop answering questions on Facebook. “I bet you don’t remember your third grade teacher” or “What’s your childhood phone number” may seem innocuous, but hackers use the answers to collect your security questions! While you’re at it, don’t play those games either. You know the ones – “Which Disney princess do you look like?” I love them, but a security expert warned me against them last year. No, I don’t remember why (thanks swiss cheese brain!).
If, like me, you do all the right things but still find yourself a victim, there are several steps you should take.
1. Scream, cry and throw things. It’s not helpful, but it is cathartic.
2a. Check your credit report. By law, everyone is entitled to one free credit report/year, but, thanks to COVID, you check your credit report once/week (which is the only good thing about the pandemic. Well, that, and the fact that I finally get to work from home).
2b. Place a fraud alert or security freeze on your credit report. The nice thing about a fraud alert is that you only have to notify one of the three credit reporting companies (they alert the others) AND it halts all those pre-screened credit card applications for 6 months.
3. File an identity theft report with the FTC. Their site leads you step-by-step through the necessary actions. Hmmmm. Maybe that should be the first step?
As my daughter reminded me, in the grand scheme of things, this is a minor bump – it’s fixable, nobody lost a limb or became “unalive” and we’ve dealt with a worse in our rollercoaster decade.
She’s right. Life’s a rollercoaster, and 49% of people like rollercoasters (now that’s a statistic I can understand). So get in, sit down, buckle up and don’t forget to throw your hands in the air – it makes the ride so much more fun.