WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Identity theft doubled in 2020 from 2019, according to a report from the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC shows Kansas ranks first for identity theft reports across the country last year.
The pandemic is partly to blame. The massive number of reports connected to government documents and benefits fraud like unemployment was the main reason for the surge.
Unemployment fraud was a struggle faced by thousands of Kansans.
“I was like, what in the world?” Dixie Martin thought when she found a letter from the Kansas Department of Labor. “Had my name on it, my address on it, you know, and so I opened it. It said I had worked for someplace that I’d never worked for in a town that I’d never lived in and had like, almost $40,000 in it.”
She is one of more than 38,000 Kansans who reported having their identity stolen for benefits in 2020.
“There was an incredible number of fraudulent unemployment claims going on. I had four filed on me,” said Bill Ramsey, CEO of Soteria Technology Solutions.
Attorney General Derek Schmidt is not shocked by Kansas’ ranking, he shared the following statement Wednesday:
“Stolen identities have been used in the vast majority of false claims for unemployment benefits, a serious problem in which Kansas regrettably became a national leader. Thus, because millions of these bogus claims have been attempted and many thousands have been paid resulting in the loss of millions of taxpayer dollars, it is distressing but not surprising that corresponding reports of identity theft have increased exponentially.”
Kansas had four of the top five metro areas with the highest cases, Wichita included.
So, how can you protect yourself?
“Most of it has to do with your security on the internet,” Ramsey said. “If you’re leaving a lot of information public there’s a lot of things we can find out about a person just off of a public Facebook profile.”
Ramsey said you have to be cautious of your logins.
“They want to use one user name and password for everything, that’s how we get in trouble.”
If you feel your identity has been compromised, the KDOL recommeds you:
- Contact the Federal Trade Commission
- Place a fraud alert on your credit record with one of the three credit bureaus:
- Contact your financial providers (banks, credit card companies, etc.) to flag irregular transactions.
- Check your Social Security earnings statements online to make sure your reported wages are correct. You can do this with a free, personal Social Security account