mastheadblog26

Protect Yourself from Being Scammed — Cybersecurity Awareness Training, Identity Theft Insurance, Forgery Insurance

Q. I have heard that identity theft and forgery theft have been more rampant than ever. I can’t imagine being the victim of either of these horrible crimes. Besides being vigilant (including reading your articles to learn how to spot scams), are there any other ways for someone to protect themselves in connection with these types of crimes? Thanks for your help!

Fraud Is More Rampant During the Holidays

A. The holidays are often a time for an uptick in fraud against consumers, including identity theft and forgery. Sadly, this makes sense because when consumer spending increases (from things such as online and in-person holiday shopping), fraud activity increases right along with it. The more you buy things online, the more times you are potentially exposing your personally identifiable information (PII) to cybercriminals. Whenever you shop in person or dine out, you risk potential criminals getting a hold of your signature in order to commit forgery.

The number of senior fraud victims has risen at an alarming rate, and the amounts they have lost are staggering. Last year, more than 92,000 victims over the age of 60 reported losses of $1.7 billion to the FBI. That represents a 74 percent increase in losses compared with losses reported in 2020!

The Most Common Fraud Crimes against Seniors

Among older victims, the most common fraud crimes were identity theft, tech support scams, forgery, and nonpayment for or non-delivery of goods or services, the FBI said. Cybercrime is increasingly common and results in damage and destruction of data, stolen money, lost productivity, and theft of personal and financial data, among other losses.

“Cybercrime has gotten more sinister and significant,” said Mike Steinbach, head of Citibank’s fraud prevention unit. “The American public needs to know fraud has evolved. You shouldn’t be waiting on monthly, quarterly reports. You should be checking your accounts regularly.” 

“Regularly” means logging into your financial portals every day or at least once a week to check for any unusual activity. When you do this, of course be sure you are logging in to the correct website using your own highly secure password that you keep in your secure password safe. Don’t have a password safe? Here’s an article of mine from several years ago that mentions three of the major password safes, also called password managers. 

Study Shows Extent of Identity Theft Fraud

Identity fraud remains one of the fastest-growing crimes. Javelin Strategy and Research’s “2022 Identity Fraud Study: The Virtual Battleground” found a 90 percent increase in account takeovers from 2020 to 2021. Identity fraud losses totaled $52 billion in 2021 and affected at least 42 million American adults as hackers moved more aggressively into “hijacking victims’ online lives,” the study found.

Seniors, many of whom did not have prior experience transacting online, were and continue to be especially vulnerable to scams by offenders who rob the unsuspecting of their hard-earned money. 

Why Identity Theft Fraud Has Risen Steadily

In the last 15 years, identity fraud losses in general have risen steadily. The problem was exacerbated over the last couple of years, with the pandemic causing significant changes in our lives, such as the rise of working from home, video visits with doctors, and online shopping for everything from groceries to cars and loans. There were also major economic impacts that led to much higher unemployment numbers and the federal government stepping in to provide stimulus packages to consumers and loans to small businesses.

These factors created the perfect storm for scammers who took advantage of loosened identity verification controls and the need to disburse funds quickly. As a result, these criminals used stolen and fake identities to open accounts, claim benefits, and take out loans for individuals and businesses that didn’t exist. The extent of such fraud is in the billions!

What Is Being Done?

Despite banks spending considerable resources toward educating their customers about how to avoid falling victim to scams, seniors and others are still being scammed. While 42 percent of consumers consider it their own responsibility to keep their identity safe, 60 percent believe that it is their bank’s responsibility to fix things when an identity fraud loss occurs. Some banks respond and improve the fraud resolution process with complimentary identity protection, easily accessible online tracking of fraud cases, and restitution of stolen funds while cases are being investigated. Still, when it comes to identity theft, this often isn’t enough. 

Cybersecurity Awareness Training

Large and small businesses over the last several years have widely implemented cybersecurity awareness training for their employees. These consist of longer training courses, mini courses, and simulated fraudulent emails and text messages to test employees frequently to ensure that the employees have learned the valuable cybersecurity lessons that have been taught, and stay vigilant.

But retired seniors don’t work for companies that have implemented cybersecurity awareness training, and must therefore seek out such training for themselves. One good free cybersecurity training source is from Amazon. Keep yourself secure online by taking the 15-minute Cybersecurity awareness training and learn how to identify cybersecurity risks, including phishing, social engineering, and data privacy. Here is the link: https://learnsecurity.amazon.com

Here’s another good source for free training: https://protectconnect.com

Use the SLAM Method to Identify Scams

One of these valuable security lessons is to use the SLAM Acronym to identify fraudulent emails and phishing scams trying to steal your personally identifiable information. 

SLAM stands for Sender, Links, Attachments, Message — the four main things that will help alert you that an email is fraudulent and trying to steal your PII. 

Sender: When cybercriminals send phishing emails or text messages, they often mimic a trusted sender’s email address to trick recipients into opening the email. For example, if you were to get an email from farrlawfirm@gmail.com, you should immediately suspect that this is a fraudulent email, because any legitimate email from our law firm will come from the domain “@farrlawfirm.com.”

Links: Fraudulent emails and text messages often contain links that enable cybercriminals to steal your login credentials to a legitimate website by sending you to a link that mimics the appearance of a legitimate website. Never trust a text message that comes from someone you don’t know. Never trust a text message that appears to be coming from an email address. Links contained in an email should be hovered over to check the legitimacy of the link. Is the website that you see when you hover actually directing you to a legitimate website? Are there misspellings in the link address? To always be on the safe side, don’t click on links in emails that appear to be taking you to a company website login page. Instead, go to the company website directly, preferably using the password safe where you have securely stored the accurate website link and your login credentials. 

Attachments: As a general rule, you should never open an email attachment from any sender that you do not know. And even when you do know the sender, you should only open an attachment when you are expecting it. 

Message: Although phishing emails have become more sophisticated over the years, many cybercriminals are from countries where English is not the first language, so the content of the message itself can often reveal the fraudulent nature of the email, containing generic greetings, misspelled words, grammatical errors, or strange wording. Obviously, emails with any of these warning signs should not be trusted.

Consider Purchasing Identity Theft Insurance for Asset Protection

Educating yourself and remaining vigilant are the most important things you can do to protect your identity and avoid the financial losses that can result from identity theft. An added protection you can sign up for is an identity theft protection service, many of which services offer some insurance protection that can help you resolve and recoup any out-of-pocket expenses resulting from identity theft. Although identity theft insurance is a common feature of identity theft protection services, the exact amount of reimbursement you’ll receive and the types of expenses that are covered vary by service. 

  • Coverage can range from $500,000 to $1 million. Although it’s better to have more coverage, you’ll often pay a higher membership fee for services with $1 million identity theft insurance plans.
    • For example, Experian IdentityWorks℠ Plus offers coverage of up to $500,000 and costs $9.99 to $24.99 per month, depending on the plan. Experian IdentityWorks℠ Premium offers $1 million in coverage but costs more: $19.99 to $29.99 per month, depending on the plan. Ultimately, you’ll need to decide if you want to pay a higher monthly fee in order to receive more insurance coverage.
  • Beyond the dollar amount of insurance, you’ll need to read the fine print to see what expenses are eligible for reimbursement. 
    • Common out-of-pocket expenses that are covered include legal fees, lost wages, and other expenses (including mailing costs, phone bills and notary fees, etc.) that are associated with resolving identity theft. 
    • The most important thing to be aware of is that most identity theft insurance DOES NOT provide coverage for any stolen money or financial loss. Be sure this is what you are getting if this is what you are looking for.

Which Are the Best Identity Theft Protection Services for Asset Protection?

CNBC reviewed several credit monitoring and identity theft protection services that safeguard your information and provide insurance. Here are the best identity theft protection services according to CNBC:

Here is the list of top identity theft protection services from US News

Please note that most major homeowners insurance companies, such as State Farm, Liberty Mutual, The Hartford, Allstate, etc., offer identity theft protection, usually as an add-on to your homeowners insurance policy, but as mentioned above, be aware that most of these policy add-ons only cover reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses and do not cover loss of money that is actually stolen from you, or if they do cover money that is stolen from you, it is subject to very low annual amounts. For example:

State Farm’s Identity Restoration Insurance reimburses a maximum of only $25,000 in necessary expenses related to identity theft restoration, including application fees, attorney’s fees, auditing costs, civil judgments, court costs, and credit report fees. You can add cyberattack and cyber extortion coverage, but that only reimburses you a maximum of $15,000 in expenses incurred to retrieve your data if a ransomware program hijacks your computer.

The Hartford’s Identity Fraud Expense Coverage reimburses you for up to $25,000 worth of expenses related to fraud and identity theft. 

Allstate Identity Protection offers many different levels of plans, including ones that offer stolen funds reimbursement protection if a fraudster targets you. But even this is extremely limited, as Allstate will cover a maximum of $50,000 in reimbursements for money stolen from your bank account.

Other Options for Identity Theft Asset Protection

Identity theft protection services can help you spot fraud early, which can make it easier to stop the damage before it becomes an even bigger headache. While you’ll pay a fee for these services, they can help you be proactive about securing your personal information.

If you’re hesitant to pay a fee for identity theft protection, consider signing up for a credit monitoring service instead. The two services often overlap in coverage, and there are many free credit monitoring programs. Then if you want a more comprehensive level of protection, consider upgrading to an identity theft protection service. 

Forgery Is Another Common Form of Fraud

Forgery is a criminal act in which someone falsifies or fabricates a legal document, a work of art, or other items with intention to deceive another person or entity. We don’t see a lot of forgery crimes on the news, but forgery is actually more common today than ever, thanks to 20th-century technology and the internet.

Common Acts of Forgery 

The following are some of the more common forms of forgery:

  • Signature Forgery— falsely replicating someone else’s signature.
  • Prescription Forgery— altering a prescription or forging a doctor’s signature or prescription with the intent to get medicine.
  • Art Forgery— putting an artist’s name on a work of art so it appears to be an original.

How Forgery Insurance Can Help Protect Assets

Forgery insurance can help protect you from loss or damage caused by forgery. Forgery insurance is also known as alteration coverage or depositors’ forgery insurance, and is sometimes called a forgery bond. According to Insuranceopedia, forgery insurance “can help protect a person or company that becomes a victim of a forged financial instrument … the insurer would compensate the victim of a counterfeit check or an altered bank deposit for the loss incurred … as a result of the forgery up to the policy limits.”

Protect Your Assets from Scams and Get Your Asset Protection Planning in Place!

While keeping up and protecting yourself from scams that are affecting senior consumers is important, it is also very important to keep up with your own planning. At the Farr Law Firm, we help our clients plan for themselves and their loved ones.

If you have not done Incapacity Planning, Estate Planning, or Long-Term Care Planning, or if you have a loved one who is nearing the need for long-term care or already receiving long-term care, please contact the Farr Law Firm for a no-cost introductory consultation:

Asset Protection Fairfax: 703-691-1888
Asset Protection Fredericksburg: 540-479-1435
Asset Protection Rockville: 301-519-8041
Asset Protection DC: 202-587-2797

Print This Page
About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.

Leave a comment