Scammers are finding out more ways to steal your identity and it doesn't appear they're slowing down in Tennessee any time soon.

Tennessee's Department of Insurance and Commerce told News4 technology has a lot to do with it.

ID cloaking, spoofing, email scams, and sweetheart scams are all ways the thieves can hide who they are and gain access to your hard earned money.

“They basically cut off my mail for a few days to make sure I didn’t receive any sort of notification of new credit being taken out in my name," Mark Dickens from Franklin said.

The beginning of 2017 wasn't kind to Mark Dickens. Scammers somehow got a hold of his personal information and opened nearly a dozen credit cards.

Dickens said they went on a shopping trip around Cool Springs and Opry Mills ringing up around $15,000.

“My understanding is it was a group of individuals that came up from another city and they had fake identities for individuals in Nashville and went on a very systematic shopping spree," Dickens said.

A wireless store contacted him saying someone tried to buy six cell phones in his name. That's when Dickens knew his identity was stolen.

The Federal Trade Commission said more than 6,800 Tennesseans reported being identity theft victims in 2018. That's a more than 20% increase from the year before. 

"Technology is a tool in our daily lives that makes what we do easier and scammers use technology to make what they do easier," Kevin Walters with the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance said.

Scammers use your information to open credit cards or even buy a house. A credit freeze can help put a stop to that.

All you have to do is contact each of the nationwide credit bureaus:

Consumers will need to provide each agency with your name, address, date of birth, Social Security number, and other personal identifiable information.

After requesting the freeze, you will be given a PIN or password that will be used to lift the freeze. Keep this number in a safe location.

The tool is free and restricts access to your credit report.

“Most creditors will want to see your credit report first before they extend that credit. If your credit has been frozen, they can’t get to it," Walters said.

If you freeze your credit, you can still rent an apartment or apply for a job. Keep in mind this won't stop the thieves from racking up charges on any accounts you already have open.

Copyright 2019 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.


Cameron Taylor is a national Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist who joined the News 4 team in December 2018.

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