MISSION, Kan. — A new study finds that Kansas ranks No. 1 in the number of identity theft reports in 2020. Most of them were the result of government documents or benefits fraud.
The Kansas Department of Labor had an extraordinarily high number of fraudulent applications that caused the agency to temporarily shut down its website to slow down criminals bilking the system.
“Somehow they had got my information to know who my employer was. They knew my address. They knew obviously everything to fill out an application correctly,” victim Doug Dockhorn said. “So yeah, that was very disheartening.”
Dockhorn works for a pharmaceutical research company and was surprised to learn he filed for unemployment in Kansas.
“I had not filed for unemployment,” he said. “That kind of started a whole chain of poking around, trying to figure out what was going on because I was really kind of caught off guard by it.”
Dockhorn was one of 43,211 Kansans who were victims of identity theft in 2020 as opposed to 2,272 in 2019, according to a report by the Federal Trade Commission. That’s an increase of more than 1,801.9%.
Local tech expert Burton Kelso believes criminals are taking advantage of people being more attached to their electronics during the pandemic.
“The fact that you’ve got more people at home shopping online, being a little bit more trusting as far as the things that they interact with on the web,” Kelso said of the FTC report. “So yeah, I’m not surprised at all.”
There’s also been an increase in the number of socially engineered phishing scams put together by what Kelso calls criminal think tanks.
“It’s not like some nerd in the basement sending out all these spam messages,” Kelso said. “I mean, you’ve got trained professionals that know how to elicit human responses to text messages and voicemails in order to get your information.”
Dockhorn said his company routinely does phishing exercises, and he is vigilant about not clicking on emails from people he does not know.
“It was a real head-scratcher of how they access that information to know that many specifics about me to file the claim,” Dockhorn said.
Credit monitoring, using unique passwords for each online account, two factor authentication, and ignoring emails from people you don’t know are important tools in protecting your information. Websites like IHaveBeenPwned.com will search for your information on the dark web, and if it is there, you’ll know you’re a target.
“All cyber criminals want, essentially, is your money,” Kelso said. “A lot of people think that they’ve been hacked because of information that they have on their computer devices, but the main goal for all cyber criminals is to make money as quickly as possible.”
These phishing scams are not just happening online but via text message. Bottom line is, don’t ever click on a link if it didn’t come from someone you know.