Fraud, identity theft & what happens in between

One my clients, a large organization specializing in anti-fraud an identity theft, took what was left of my rose colored glasses and smashed them against the wall moments after I walked in the conference room.
identity theft
“Let’s see what we can find on you,” said the CEO, inserting my full name. Completely unprepared was I for the plethora of data available. Address, phone numbers, employment. Some free, some at a cost. A dating site had information on my school history, all my past addresses and suggested names, numbers and addresses of former neighbors, just in case a prospective beau wanted to conduct a search.”There’s more,” he said, his fingers gliding across the keypad. “Watch this.” Within seconds, he pulled every single social community site I’d ever joined, active user or not. Facebook was a given, but many others, invitation and party sites, activity-oriented sites (e.g. book clubs) and more. It took him less than five minutes to construct the outline of my life. No wonder people are freaked about stalking and identity theft.stolen info used“The good news,” he told me, is that simple techniques help avoid, or at least “delay” the prospect of identity theft. Readers already know how a credit card app was stolen from our mailbox, and we had no clue until the FBI showed up at Rog’s office, telling him a nice Honda had been purchased in our name, courtesy of a credit card ring they’d been tracking.

I was happy we could afford a Honda, but I would have been thrilled if we could have afforded a Ferrari. So much for the AMEX black card.

I’m then informed that 6 out of 10 people will be victims of fraud (e.g. theft) of credit cards, social security numbers or some other data that turns into taking money out of an account or spending money without your knowledge or approval. When funds zip out of your checking account, you are hosed. When it’s on a credit card, you’re covered (usually). In the case of our above credit card issue, the thieves had the audacity to come back twice- the first time they came, they stole credit card applications that were sent in the mail (the ironic problem of having good credit). They applied, using information stolen from our other mail, and the credit card company issued the card. The thieves then came back and snagged the physical card. Once in their possession, they went wild.

Now we were somewhat saved by the admission of Citibank. When the card was activated, they should have asked some security questions, like mothers maiden name etc. This was information the thieves didn’t have. However, Citi still activated the card. They actually admitted this (and I’m sure they have gotten better about protocols. No really, I’m sure. Really.) Anyhoo, the theiver (like my word invention) must have been an amazing sales person because Citi did it anyway.

Internal checklist

  • Get your free credit report once a year. I used to do this just for me. Now I do it for Roger, and my daughter’s, since they have social security numbers. “The fastest growing segment for ID theft is kids under 16,” the CEO old me. The parents don’t bother to check the credit records until it’s time to get the child a credit card, about college. By then, the damage is hard, and costly to undo. If you do #2 below, it can be included as a part of the package!
  • Sign up for Lifelock I can say this now that my project with them has concluded. It monitors any tap into a credit reporting agency. Once an agency has been pinged, I get a call, email and/or text that someone has requested my information. Since I am well, me, I know if I have applied for anything or not. Sub note- I have signed up my husband and two kids for this, because I learned that kids are the number one targets for identity theft! Kids receive social security numbers, but rarely need them before getting a drivers license or going to college (unless you give them a credit card).
  • Put a lock on your mailbox. We purchased an industrial size/strength box and this worked, right up until the time the lovely postman decided not to close the lid all the way. Bam. What good is a lock when its wide open? We ultimately opted for a PO Box.

Ultimately, the CEO of LifeLock told me over and over that “it’s not ‘if’, it’s ‘when,’ so just be prepared.” With those wonderful words of comfort, I urge you to be proactive on this one. It’s worth the 10 bucks to save thousands. Oh! I forgot to mention Lifelock covers outstanding fees/what’s been stolen if you are covered on their plan at time of theft. And no, I don’t get kickbacks, referrals fees or even a Christmas card in the mail. I’m just a serious believer in their product, and you know me, when I love something, I write about it.