On the morning of Thursday, April 26, seventy Bank of the West customers and team members along with nonprofit staff and clients, practitioners and other members of the community came out to Mills College in Oakland, CA to learn how to prevent, detect and recover from identity theft. Bank of the West hosted this public forum in conjunction with Operation HOPE and the Identity Theft Assistance Center (ITAC) as part of its continued financial education efforts.
Identity theft continues to be one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States. According to a 2012 Identity Fraud Report released by Javelin Strategy & Research, incidents of identity theft increased by 13% in 2011, with more than 11.6 million adults falling victim to this criminal activity. This increase in identity fraud was also reflected by The Federal Trade Commission, which tracks and distributes a list of top consumer complaints received by the agency annually. For the 12th year in a row, identity fraud topped the 2011 consumer complaints list.
Attendees gained access to local community resources, received free document shredding and engaged in a conversation with experts in the field of identity theft. Bank of the West Chief Security Officer, Joe Ford spoke about the role Banks play in ensuring customers’ information is protected and also stressed the importance of being aware of what type of information consumers are putting out on social media and through other channels that can be used by fraudsters. As a community advocate, Tyrone Cosey, Operation HOPE Banking Center Vice President, shared about community resources available to individuals, especially for those who are more vulnerable to becoming victims of fraud.
U.S. Secret Service Special Agent in Charge, Andy Adelmann stressed the importance of reporting ID theft to law enforcement and the commitment they have to investigate these cases and moreover, not just be responsive to fraud cases, but have a role in preventing them. When asked what is the best way for someone to protect themselves, Adelmann responded, “Public education is the single best prevention of identity theft.”
ITAC President, Anne Wallace also stressed the importance of education and being aware of what tools and resources are available to protect someone’s personal information and, in the case they do become victims, to help them through the recovery process.