Ray’s Take: Back in 2013, I turned down $1.5 million dollars that I was awarded by a Nigerian prince. He just needed my name, address and social security number to wire the millions directly to my bank account. I also won the lottery several times over the last several years. I completely forgot to send my personal information to the “lottery office” so unfortunately I didn’t get all those winnings.
Everyone has stories like these if you use any kind of technology and while these examples of identity theft seem comical, there were 16.7 million victims of identity theft last year. Thieves stole over $16.8 billion dollars from U.S. consumers. Identity theft happens once every two seconds. Basically, you are more likely to become a victim of identity theft than having your car stolen or your home burglarized.
There are all kinds of identity theft programs out there that offer identity theft protection plans such as Experian, LifeLock and Identity Guard, just to name a few. If you don’t have room in your budget for these protection plans, here are some basic things you can do to keep your information safe.
Income tax identity theft cost the IRS approximately $6 billion last year. File your tax return early to beat criminals to the punch. Make sure your anti-virus security software is up-to-date on all of your devices. Keep your passwords and security questions secure and change them frequently. And limit the use of your ATM card and use your EMV chip credit card whenever possible.
The bottom line is there is no privacy anymore and there is nothing that can protect you 100 percent. Simply do what you can to keep your personal information safe and teach your children to protect their identities as well.
To report identity theft, visit the Federal Trade Commission website to file a claim, then call the three major credit bureaus to create a fraud alert for your file. In addition, contact your banking institution and complete a police report at your local law enforcement office.
Dana’s Take: Since most businesses know us as a number, instead of a face, identity theft has become a real headache. Back in the 1950’s most merchants recognized the faces of their customers but then again, you also couldn’t order a book from Amazon at midnight.
Since identity theft seems to be a growing part of modern life, we might as well be prepared for it. Your bills will keep coming and not all creditors are patient. Keep a backup card with an account that will never go in your wallet. Also, keep your money in more than one bank so you can continue to pay your bills while the financial institutions sort out the situation and to protect your credit rating.