Identity theft. There is nothing you can do to prevent it. There is nothing you can do to stop it. You can’t protect what is already out there. According to Carrie Kerskie, director of the Identity Fraud Institute at Hodges University, the only thing you can do is look for warning signs so if something happens, you can take the appropriate and immediate steps needed to restore your identity.
“Education is the first line of defense in the fight against identity theft. The more you know, the less likely you are to become the next victim,” says Kerskie.
This is why the mission of Hodges University’s newly formed Identity Fraud Institute is to learn, share and collaborate. The institute serves as the central hub for all identity theft and fraud-related information in and throughout the state of Florida, as well as provides victim assistance programs. For more than seven years, Florida has ranked first nationwide for identity fraud complaints, with Naples ranking fifth of all cities in the United States in 2014.
Citizen education is a prominent component of the Identity Fraud Institute. The institute offers workshops to the public to introduce and raise awareness of the many forms of identity theft and how to identify each. Topics included are smartphone privacy, credit fraud, medical identity theft, social media safety, and phishing emails. A complete list of upcoming workshops is available at http://www.hodges.ed/identity/events.aspx.
Attendees and members of the Identity Fraud Institute Educational Program will not only learn how to identify identity fraud and scams, but they will also leave each presentation equipped with steps to take when victimized.
Membership in the Identity Fraud
Institute’s Educational Program includes 10 workshops within the academic year ( July-June). The annual membership fee is $200 per person. Advanced registration for all workshops is required. Members will receive preferred registration and advanced notice of upcoming workshops. Workshops are also available to the public at a fee of $25 per session.
In addition, the institute is offering free, 30-minute consultations for victims of identity fraud once a month at the Hodges University campuses in Naples and Fort Myers. Open to the public, individuals must schedule an appointment and can expect to leave with actionable recommendations specific to their case. In development is a program that will certify participants as identity theft advisors, giving them an opportunity to also help other victims.
The Collier Identity Theft Task Force serves as the official advisory council of the Identity Fraud Institute. Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk is the cofounder of the task force and, alongside Hodges University president, Dr. David Borofsky, is a driving force behind the support of the institute.
The Collier Identity Theft Task Force consists of several businesses and organizations including the Collier County Sheriff ’s Office, local police departments, the Internal Revenue Service, the AARP, among others, who joined together in the interest of protecting local citizens and educating them on identity fraud and theft.
As the advisory council to the Identity Fraud Institute, the task force provides guidance for the institute, pulling from members’ experience with identity theft in the local community. The institute will allow for the task force to continue its mission, providing untapped resources and bringing organizations together for a multi-faceted approach to identifying solutions to identity fraud and theft. The partnership strengthens the impact of both the institute and the task force, while benefitting the community.
“The challenge of identity theft and cyber security is of great concern to our community, state and nation,” said Borofsky. “By utilizing the resources of our faculty and the members of the task force, we are able to work together to provide public information, education, training and other activities to help the people of our area protect themselves.”
For more information regarding the Hodges University Identity Fraud Institute, contact Kerskie at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239.598.6281.
Carrie Kerskie is the director of the Hodges University Identity Fraud Institute, an identity fraud expert, Florida Licensed Private Investigator and local resource on data breach issues, as well as author of Your Public Identity: Because Nothing is Private Anymore.