KEARNEY, Neb. (NTV NEWS) —
The Federal Trade Commission says each year, identity theft is among the top consumer complaints. There were nearly 400,000 reports in 2016.
“When I walked on this other side, I could see that this driver’s side window had been taken out,” said Ron Heaney, a victim of identity theft. “When I looked inside, there was glass all over. My glove compartment was open.”
Recently, Ron’s car was burglarized in Kansas.
“My glove compartment was completely empty. In there I had my insurance card, my registration and unfortunately I had a very sensitive personal document,” Heaney said.
Almost immediately, thieves began working to open lines of credit in his name.
“You’re just kind of saying to yourself, ‘this can’t be real, this can’t be real’,” Heaney said.
Ron headed back to Kearney, racing to secure accounts and change information before the bad guys could take advantage.
“It’s a very hard feeling. Basically you’re kind of trapped,” Heaney said.
He filed reports with law enforcement, initiated credit locks, complated daily security checks, calls to the Federal Trade Commission, and much more.
“Every single day, it’s something I have to think about and just be aware of. It’s just tough,”
“A lot of times, the victim is the one that has to put forth the effort and correct something that ultimately wasn’t their fault,” said Captain Brian Hessler, with the Hastings Police Department.
Captain Hessler said identity theft does happen in central Nebraska, and there are ways to protect your personal information, including:
- Limit what you carry, and leave your Social Security card at home
- Destroy sensitive documents you no longer need
- Ask “why” before you share potentially sensitive information
“Theft just in its nature is a crime of opportunity. If you take away that opportunity, then there’s not going to be any theft,” Captain Hessler said.
Protecting yourself online is just as important.
“Anything that asks you to enter your personal information into, be a little leery of,” said Kelsey Jebzera, employee at Computer Hardware.
Jezbera says scammers are looking to trick users into downloading malicious software and are also sending emails “phishing” for personal information.
“There are more and more of them popping up, and there are people who don’t know any better or are just confused by what they’re doing,” Jebzera said.
Jebzera tells her customers to change passwords frequently, have multiple layers of security, and be sure to have software dedicated to protecting the health of your device.
As for that car break-in, Ron said it also taught him one more thing.
“I am now very mindful of what I keep in my car now. Only the absolute minimum I need in there,” Ron said.
If you do find yourself the victim of identity theft, there are steps you can take to regain control, click here for more information.