Identity Theft & 5 Tips for Improvement

Protect Yourself and Your Customers with Help from Bridgeforce

We understand that your resources are likely strained due to multiple competing priorities. Bridgeforce provides the additional support necessary to address your fraud needs – from identity theft to friendly fraud – allowing you to maintain focus on other critical efforts.

Our abilities include:

  • Proprietary Fraud Health Check
  • Fraud Rules Analysis – Where are your opportunities?  What are you missing?
  • Process Analysis including Process Mapping and Redesign, Fraud Tools/Technology Assessment and Integration Analysis

You need to protect yourself – see why below from a victim of identity theft, who happens to be on our team. We chose to share the story to give a consumer perspective, especially now when resources are stretched to cover a myriad of financial requests, and various customer needs.

At the end of our insider’s story, you’ll find tips to ensure this doesn’t happen to your customers.

A Victim’s View on Fraud

My Fraud Story (happened during the pandemic)

The day progressed as most for me during the COVID-19 pandemic: work, walks with the pup, and unwinding to a new movie.

Out of nowhere, my attention was drawn to my phone.

I’d recently set up credit bureau alerts and received a notification from Experian regarding a significant balance increase for a credit card account. How odd. I had not used my credit cards for any large purchases to warrant such an alert.

Confused, I proceeded to the Experian app.  Upon accessing my profile, I was met with a startling drop in my credit score.

The culprit:  a new account was added to my credit bureau report with a high balance of $1,515. This made no sense.

To add insult to injury, the available credit of $1,500 had been exceeded. Because I had not recently applied for any new credit, much less overused available credit, I was furious.

Identity Stolen

Someone had used my identity to obtain a credit card and maxed out the line.  I quickly located the issuer’s contact number and called to report the incident.

Expectedly, an automated voice response system greeted me and asked for account details to proceed.

Again, there was a problem: due to the fraudulent nature of the account, I did not have the full account number.  I needed to speak with an agent to explain my situation.  Getting a live person was tricky, given the limited staff due to the pandemic.

Almost an hour later, I was finally connected to someone.

The agent informed me that my previous residence was used to open the account and the credit card went to that address.

The fraud did not end there. The agent also revealed that there was a second fraudulent account in my name with a balance of $805–also maxed out; exceeding the available credit line of $800. This account, for some reason, had not yet reported to any credit bureaus, which was a minor blessing.

Clearing My Name

To clear my name and restore my credit score, I needed:

  • to complete and submit affidavits for both accounts as proof of the fraud claims,
  • a formal police report to accompany the affidavits, and
  • to get it all done within 14 days of receipt or the case would be closed with no further review for fraud.

The pandemic and the stay-at-home order meant this was no easy task.  The agent said the affidavits would be mailed to me, taking an estimated 7-10 days to receive.  However, considering the delays caused by the crisis, I asked that they be sent electronically via email.  Unfortunately, affidavits cannot be filled out and submitted online, so I had to print them in order to mail them to the issuer.

After visiting my local police department to file reports, I was able to submit all necessary documents to the issuer.  Knowing that this was a clear case of identity theft, I had no concerns regarding the outcome.

While awaiting the results, my next credit report was even more distressing. I now had a delinquent payment to go along with the maxed-out credit card.

Call Again Soon

Even though it was a Saturday, I quickly contacted the issuer to express my dissatisfaction and received extremely vague details regarding status.

I was told to call back during the week to speak with someone from fraud investigations.  I tried again on Monday.

After a lengthy conversation regarding the status and handling of my case, I received an apology for the inconvenience and learned that all would be resolved completely within a matter of days.

Case Closed

Less than three days later, the account was deleted from my credit bureau report and I later received letters from the issuer confirming the completed investigation and favorable decision.  I was happy that the case was finally resolved but disappointed with the amount of my time and effort expended to reach this conclusion. I was conservative on my estimate of a minimum of eight hours lost to the process.

This was my first case of identity theft and while I hadn’t expected it to be pleasant, I assumed the process for victims would be as painless as possible. I’d anticipated a smooth process because I’ve been in banking for more than 20 years and now as a consultant, I’ve seen many different operational processes that work well. We’ve also been involved in helping clients evaluate and improve enterprise-wide fraud programs, so I know what good looks like.

In my case, the pain was exacerbated by a lack of proper handling by my issuer, making for a truly miserable and time-intensive experience.

5 Tips to Get Your Process Pain-Free

Fraudsters Set Sights on Vulnerabilities

Fraudsters are capitalizing on weaknesses in digital infrastructures and posing as a bank to trap customers. Given this outcome, the most targeted industries includes financial services due to their digital-forward focus. The influx of digital customers due to the pandemic puts consumer at risk for these “virtual” attacks. This continues to create an atmosphere rife with scams such as fraudsters posing as the bank and pretending to send a one-time-passcode (OTP) then using the code to perform an account takeover.

"Consumers reported losing more than $5.8 billion to fraud in 2021, an increase of more than 70% over the previous year."

Fraud cases continue to skyrocket with claims of identity theft, in addition to cases involving friendly fraud and false claims. False claims stem from opportunity, desperation and increased cases of buyer’s remorse as a result of the worsening economy.

3 Factors to Address to Mitigate Risk

As financial institutions continue to adjust to the changing effects from the pandemic, increased inflation and the lagging economy, they should address three critical factors:

  1. Effectively combating the increase in fraud-related activity
  2. Increased card-not-present transactions from digital shopping
  3. Continued consideration for and management of the customer experience.

Tips to Ensure Fraud Preparedness

Tip Examples
1. Evaluate the fraud operation end-to-end from the customer perspective. Reduce the need for affidavits or include alerts for new spending behaviors.
2. Assess and evaluate the customer journey to remove time-draining obstacles that lead to dissatisfaction. Don’t make the customer tell you the story more than once and add to the process a customer summary sheet for the police report.
3. Prioritize fraud processes. Determine which is more critical and feasible: the ease of reaching an agent or changing the affidavit process.
4. Streamline your fraud operation to address shortcomings involving claims handling. Find additional chargeback opportunities or process/technology enhancements to reduce staffing needs.
5. Quickly invest in proper strategies and tools to protect against identity theft. Enhanced multi-factor authentication processes.

Although some organizations may feel confident in their current processes, it is undeniable that failing to address gaps and a lack of focus on the customer experience can be costly.

Bridgeforce Can Help You Find and Address Gaps in Your Process

For 22 years, Bridgeforce has provided support and guidance to financial institutions of varying sizes. We have years of hands-on industry experience, with the proven ability to provide effective results for clients both on-site and remotely.

To begin your fraud assessment, contact us today.


[Editor’s note: this article was written by Quan Baker, former Bridgeforce Consultant]

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