Margaret Clark’s first encounter with potential identity thieves began so routinely.
She had just bought a new PC when she got a pop-up alert claiming to be from Microsoft about a supposed problem. She called the number provided and was convinced by the “tech support agent” to allow him to remotely access her PC in order to “fix it.” The cost: $300.
“That doesn’t seem right,” Margaret thought, so she took down their call-back number and hung up. Her next call was to best friend Ashera Anderson of Wells Fargo Virtual Channels Risk Management.
“We’ve been best friends for 30 years — ever since grade school — and been through so much together,” Margaret says. “She’s always been there for me, and I knew I could count on her to help out.”
Ashera quickly confirmed that Margaret had, indeed, been targeted by a tech support scam. She then walked her friend through some steps she needed to take to secure her computer and protect her identity, including wiping and reloading her computer, monitoring all accounts for suspicious activity, placing a fraud alert on her credit file with the three major credit bureaus, and changing all of her usernames and passwords.
A personal perspective
Her friend’s experience, Ashera says, gave her a very personal perspective on the importance of her role in managing fraud education efforts — including a recent content overhaul and launch of a streamlined design for Wells Fargo’s Fraud Information Center, which provides tools and resources to help reduce the risk of fraud and identity theft.
“This scam really hit close to home,” says Ashera. “After that incident, I was even more diligent and committed to providing our customers with helpful information that is actionable and easy to find.”
Identity theft has surged in recent years as ID thieves ranging from freelance hackers to members of organized crime rings have exploited the vulnerabilities of online and mobile communications, the Federal Trade Commission says. FTC figures show the number of identity theft cases rose 50 percent in 2015 alone.
Wells Fargo has seen a rise in such reports, too, as identity theft has become one of the fastest-growing crimes consumers face today, says Debbie Ward, head of risk operations and fraud prevention for Wells Fargo’s Consumer Lending Group.
“Wells Fargo has taken a leadership role to equip customers and team members with educational resources to help prevent identity theft,” she says. “When it comes to keeping personal and financial information safe, it is important to be proactive.”
If you think your identity may have been stolen, don’t put off doing something about it.
Earlier this year, Wells Fargo mobilized team members in a number of business areas across the company to renovate the Fraud Information Center, says Mary Sabella of Virtual Channels Risk Management.
“Over the past few years, we have successfully expanded our fraud and security education efforts to other channels, including email campaigns and social media,” Mary says. “We partner closely with frontline fraud teams as well as security subject matter experts to stay on top of the latest fraud trends and keep our customers informed about how to protect themselves.”
Today the site contains educational articles on critical topics such as IRS imposter scams, elder fraud, and tips to thwart cyber criminals. The site also provides numerous tips on protecting your identity, including the following:
- Store your Social Security card, financial documents, and unused credit cards in a secure location.
- Never provide payment or other sensitive information on a call that you did not initiate.
- Do not use email to send payment or other sensitive information, as the channel is typically not secure.
- Shred documents that contain personal or financial information before discarding.
- Review your credit report at least once a year to look for unauthorized accounts that are opened in your name. Receive a free credit report annually from each of the three major credit bureaus at www.annualcreditreport.com.
- Recognize common online scams.
If you think your identity may have been stolen, one of the most important things not to do is put off doing something about it, says Ashera.
“My friend followed through on everything I told her to do and she did it quickly,” she says. “It looks like she was able to stop any malicious attempts and hasn’t lost anything — personal information, money, or especially her identity.”