The news about Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke becoming a victim of ID theft resulting in a financial crime scares the living daylights out of me. It used to be more of an inconvenience if your purse was stolen or your home burglarized because of the accounts you had to cancel or change. At most, you were out your time and possibly a couple $100 cash. Now the repercussions of any theft where your personal information is compromised can still impact your life months, even years, later. Having been a burglary victim 3 times in the past year, it’s unnerving to think that the thief or thieves might be working for a larger fraud ring like the person who stole Anna Bernanke’s purse.
Even more disturbing is the reach fraud rings have. As NEWSWEEK points out, “Big Head” the leader of the fraud ring involved in the Bernanke crime:
employed an army of pickpockets, mail thieves, and office workers to swipe checks, credit cards, military IDs, and other personal records.
One member of the ring had infiltrated an office of the Combined Federal Campaign, the official U.S. government-sponsored charity, and supplied the crime ring with stacks of checks mailed in by federal workers, the records show. Another worked in a Washington, D.C., doctor’s office, with access to patients’ records and their bank-account information.
Those who are victims of a pickpocket, burglary, etc. are aware of their risk and can monitor their financial records and credit reports to look for unusual activity. But what if your information was stolen from the check you sent in to a charity? Or from the office manager at your doctor’s office?
Knowing that these fraud rings are penetrating places that we typically consider safe should be a big eye opener to all of us to be a lot more vigilant in reviewing our credit reports each year. And remember, identity theft increases your risk beyond just financial crime. Your information can be used for anything – from your SSN being used by an illegal immigrant to healthcare fraud or even criminal activity being committed in your name. If any of your personal information has been compromised, you should consider signing up for a monitoring service from a company like ID Watchdog. They will monitor all your records and watch for things beyond just what appears on your credit report.