Tag Archives: identity theft protection

Identity Theft: It was almost like being raped!

That was a newspaper headline from the Edmonton Journal. Yes, sensationalism sells, but this time, the quote was accurate and justified.

The story was about a young lady from Edmonton, who had her wallet stolen out of her car, and became a victim of identity theft.

When her wallet was stolen four months earlier she has simply called her credit card company to cancel her card and also had her drivers’ license replaced. But that was just the beginning of her nightmare of identity theft.

Along the way, she was actually investigated for fraud, and went through a virtual hell in having her bank accounts cleaned out. She discovered her identity theft while trying to make a purchase at Walmart. When she used her debit card, the cashier told her no, there wasn’t sufficient money. She tried her credit card next, and it was also declined.

When she called her bank from the parking lot, they asked her if she had just opened a new account at another branch? No, she hadn’t. But someone had, and used her identity. It got worse, since the crook deposited empty envelopes in the ATM machines, and stole another $10,000 out of her accounts from these phony deposits, off this new and fraudulent account.

The credit bureau wouldn’t help her on the phone, and I’m stunned she was even able to reach a human being at Equifax Canada. The only thing they told her was that SHE was now under investigation for fraud.

Then came the calls from the collections departments of Esso and Shell, Home Hardware and Sears, the financed van, and more – none of which were hers. And that was in between the trips to the police station and banks. All in all, the crooks used her identify to run up more than $100,000 in charges. The lenders and banks absorbed the losses, but you have to believe that a break-in at home would be less scary or frightening than identity theft.

As this lady found out, studies have shown that it takes an average of more than 30 to 150 hours of work for someone who has been a victim of identity theft. And that doesn’t include the anger, fear, credit hassles, and psychological trauma.

Oh, and one more thing that you probably don’t want to hear: It didn’t apply to this lady, but the vast majority of identity theft is committed by someone you know. While you can’t entirely prevent identity theft, you can take some easy steps to make your odds pretty tiny:

-Do not give anyone your PIN numbers
-Don’t use the same PIN number everywhere, and do change it every six months or so
-Have as little ID as you need in your wallet. You do NOT need your Social Insurance -Number in your wallet every day, and don’t need all your credit and debit cards with you every hour of every day
-Do not leave any I.D. in your car – ever.
-Empty your mailbox every day. Junk mail or credit card mailers have a lot of information on them
-Get a shredder. Do not put your personal information in your garbage.
-Check your credit report. You are entitled to a free report once a year. Pay for it if you need it more often to see if there is something weird happening
-Know your credit card statement dates. If it doesn’t show up, make the call. It may have been re-directed by the crooks
-Always check the transactions on your credit card and bank statements
-Never give out personal information on the phone or on an e-mail

And if you have been a victim of identity theft, your first visit is to the police station to file a report. No matter who it was, if you know, you will be liable if you do not file the report. Don’t protect a crooked friend or relative, because you will be liable if you haven’t taken the first step of proving these were not your transactions.

Do You WANT Your Identity Stolen?

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.