To help bring our readers more in-depth news, we’ve reached out to national experts in the field of digital safety and identity theft protection. Today we’re speaking to Sontiq’s Chief Operating Officer, Angela Murphy for expert tips and advice during the Coronavirus pandemic. She shared how the pandemic has had a heavy impact on online security and identity theft.
For Sontiq – a partnership between EZShield and IdentityForce, they’ve seen a rise in new member subscriptions to help protect personal and family data. Customers have also wanted more up-to-date materials and information to help keep them safe online as they work from home.
To no surprise, phishing emails have also increased. Sontiq reports that customers are seeing an increase in calls and write-ins to validate emails. Their customers are also proactively seeking help after clicking a malicious link.
Murphy shared some of the most common fraud and identity theft incidents people are facing during this time and why cases are steadily rising.
“Right now, scammers have combined their “tried and true” tactics around fake websites, phishing emails, robocalls, spoofed government and health organization communications, and even fake job postings to steal personal information,” Murphy shared.
Scammers are also using a few other tactics including promotions for miracle cures and vaccines. They’re also making phone calls related to stimulus checks and work from home schemes.
“During a time of stress and high-anxiety, scammers and fraudsters prey on fears and emotions to get their victims to act in a way they may not typically do under normal circumstances. And, with everything we are all dealing with right now, circumstances are far from normal – so anyone, anywhere can be an identity theft target,” Murphy reminded families.
Scams & Red Flags to Watch Out For from Sontiq Experts
Cybercriminals are using people’s fears during this time to lure people into clicking links and opening emails. Getting families to install malware to steal people’s personal identity. Many of today’s Coronavirus scams are similar to what families saw prior to the pandemic.
The most common threat that still remains is email phishing. Today, it’s been changed to relate to messages about the Coronavirus. Remember not to click on any links that seem suspicious and never enter personal information unless it’s a secure site that you use frequently. As you practice online safety to protect your identity here are a few red flags to watch out for:
- Offers that insist that you act immediately with no time to waste
- Sites that ask for personal, financial or medical information
- Emails, text messages or websites that ask you to open attachments or click on links
- Emails, messages and websites with numerous spelling and grammatical mistakes
“Be on alert for phishing emails and text messages asking you to click on malicious links in order to learn more about the coronavirus, offering phony products to fight against coronavirus, or any number of ways to separate you from your money, while compromising your sensitive personal information,” Murphy advised.
The Most Dangerous ID Theft Claim
The average identity theft case can be 100 to 200 hours’ worth of work and takes over six months to resolve. One of Sontiq’s longest resolution cases took more than two years to resolve because Sontiq uncovered one identity fraud incident after another during the resolution process. While that claim might have taken the longest to uncover, it wasn’t the most dangerous.
“One of the most dangerous claims, and most difficult to recover from, was with a customer who had been recorded as “deceased” by the Social Security Administration in their master file,” Murphy recalled.
“The customer recently turned 65, and she became eligible for Medicare and SSA benefits. The customer received a benefits package from the Social Security Administration which she did not look at or follow up on. After a red flag was raised, she realized that she had been recorded as deceased by the SSA.”
Fortunately, one of Sontiq’s Resolution Specialists helped the customer remove the deceased status listed on credit reports. The specialist also helped get a ‘Proof of Life’ letter from the Social Security Administration. The customer worked closely with the Resolution Specialist to provide copies of credit reports, identification, and Social Security cards for two months. From there, the specialist was able to work with credit bureaus on the customer’s behalf to restore her identity. After 30 days of handling the dispute, the credit bureaus removed the deceased status.
“Without Identity Protection Services, the customer would not have discovered her “deceased” status as quickly, and would have been on her own to navigate the government and credit agencies to restore herself to living status,” Murphy said.