Last summer Tyler police were warning of identity theft involving unemployment benefits. Now the criminals have upped their game and there's a new type of identity theft coming and it's much more shifty. This is what you need to watch for.

After I lost $750 in the puppy scam earlier this month I've been extra skeptical of everyone and everything!  Even real live people that I'm supposed to trust automatically.  The other day one of my kids texted me a link for an avocado toast recipe and I called her to make sure it was legit and I wasn't about to catch some kind of green fruit virus.  It seems like scams are at an all-time high, and it might be a good thing to give everyone at least a little bit of the side-eye now and then.

Identity Force said one of the most prevalent types of ID fraud now is called "synthetic identity theft," and it uses a combination of methods to assemble a fake persona.  It sounds scary.

Cybercriminals use a little bit here and a little bit there to create a new identity and steal hundreds of millions of dollars in "auto, credit card, retail credit card, and personal loans using stolen personally identifiable information (PII)."  With synthetic identity theft, thieves may use your real Social Security number and birthdate and that could be combined with a fake address and driver’s license number.  Identity Force said it may not match your exact identity but it still has ties to your personal information and that spells trouble.  A little pinch of every dessert on the buffet table can still make you full, and this works the same way.  Small pieces can add up to the whole pie and that's what the scammers are after.

The City of Tyler offers more info about what identity theft is, and it lays out some great resources that may be helpful if your identity is ever stolen.  The city says thieves may rent an apartment, divert your mail to another address, or open a credit card in your name.  Last year thieves were filing false unemployment claims and stealing the benefits from people who needed them.  Hopefully, you escaped that mess and you'll escape synthetic identity theft too.

It's a good idea to run your credit report regularly to see if there's anything suspect happening in your name.  If it's not shady unemployment benefits, it could be a fake address attached to your legit social security number.

Checking on our own identities regularly will help us catch anything fishy before it starts because the last thing we need is to have a criminal check into a hotel in the Bahamas in our names and order drinks with umbrellas using credit cards that look like ours but they're not.  They would probably order avocado toast too and we're not paying for it.

If you need to file an identity theft complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, you can do that at FTC.gov. Be safe.

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