Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the country. It is really nasty, very time consuming to deal with, a LOT of hassle, and it is only going to continue to grow for years to come. Almost everything law enforcement can do is after the fact, and that puts the onus on us to protect ourselves.
One of my biggest pet peeves is people on their cell phones in public. More so, when they have a loud voice, and really seem to want the whole world to hear their conversations. I’m sharing that for a reason, because two weeks ago, I was in the business class lounge at the Denver airport, looking for an hour of peace and quiet. Unfortunately, it turned out I was stuck three seats down from a man named Walter, and Walter was on a mission. He was on the worlds’ longest phone call to Wells Fargo attempting to get the interest income on one of his wife’s accounts for his tax return.
It was obvious from the one side of the conversation that Walter was not having much luck. Gee, like he couldn’t have guessed that privacy laws don’t give him access to other people’s financial information.! But, undeterred, Walter barged ahead.
The first thing he shared, in his rather loud voice, was his social security number and date of birth. That was just the beginning with what the customer service rep was obviously asking him, in order to establish his identity. That was followed by his Wells Fargo credit card number and security code. Becoming more frustrated that he wasn’t getting anywhere, the next thing Walter volunteered was his personal account number and transit number where his main investments were held.
By now, anyone who was interested in Walter had more than enough information to steal his identity, and over $50,000 out of his accounts, based on what a frustrated Walter shared during his call. To my way of thinking, it was not only rude, but totally irresponsible! But think about how much of your information is so easily accessible while you’re having a chuckle about Walter’s stupidity. From your Facebook privacy settings, to not having virus software when you do your on-line banking, or simply throwing mail with all kinds of personal information in the garbage, it’s you that has to be pro-active.
You cannot simply pay $10 to $20 a month to someone and hope everything will be OK. Hope is the worst form of identity theft protection. Unfortunately, nine out of every ten companies that promise to protect you do no such thing. Based on our population, around four percent of us will fall victim to identity theft in a year. As a result, these companies who promise to protect you are playing a numbers game. They receive huge amounts of money each month in premiums, and have to pay out only about four percent – if anything at all! In the meantime, millions of people are paying monthly premiums, thinking and hoping that they’re protected.
The basic, simple, easy, and common sense things you have to do:
-Don’t keep your entire life in your wallet or purse. You do not need to have access to 10 credit cards, your social insurance number, and a bunch of other personal stuff that identity thieves would love to have.
-Get a shredder and use it. Do not put personal papers or credit card mailings directly into your recycling or garbage.
-Always, always check your credit card and bank statements for something strange or unauthorized. You only have 60 days to challenge something or you own it, and have to pay it.
-If you have had your identity stolen, your first stop is the police station. I don’t care if it was a relative or stranger. You have to protect yourself and that starts with filing a report or creditors tend not to believe you – and rightly so.