I have been waiting for a while for this to happen. I knew eventually it would. And last week, it finally did – I have been the victim of identity theft.
I have to tell you – I was really mad! Not only was my ID stolen and used for an online purchase, about four days later, we received a “loan offer” in the mail that was very scary. It was a bona fide check from an organization associated with a national bank. To start the loan – and loan payment schedule in our names – all we had to do was to cash the check. The check totaled almost $2500 and anyone passing the outside and/or open mailbox could have easily stolen it. Then to top that off, the interest rate was a mere 31 percent! My opinion of this organization is that they are nothing but a bunch of crooks.
While all of this was scary, I should also mention that I have a few things working for me and I discovered another tactic that I will share with you.
First, everyone needs to acquire some kind of reassurance of protection. Personally, I use LifeLock, but shielding services are available through other sources. Depending on the level of service you purchase, the company you choose can notify you almost immediately when someone is trying to steal your name. After this event, I increased my levels of monitoring.
If you are tired of receiving offers through the mail for pre-approved credit cards, loans, insurance and anything you fear may be stolen from your mailbox, you can opt out of those offers for up to five years or for life, if you prefer. I was surprised this information came in the “loan” offer and at first, I thought it dubious. Then I started researching.
If you would like to opt out from all of those offers, go to http://optoutprescreen.com. When I first discovered this website on the loan literature, of course I was wary of it. It looked legitimate when I went to the site, but I also called up LifeLock before doing anything. I even checked out the SSL certificates on the website and they, too, looked proper. Still, I remained concerned.
I continued my research and found an article about the optoutprescreen website on the Federal Trade Commission’s website at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov. It is indeed a legitimate website set up by the credit bureaus to help consumers get rid of unwanted offers. (If you get anything like that in the mail, make sure you shred it; don’t just throw it out.)
What irritates me about the theft of my name is that I did not know about the event until after the fact. It is hard to track something you don’t know happened. On all my other accounts, however as anally retentive as this is, I check each account not less than once every other day. On those accounts, if my information gets out somehow, I will find a fraudulent purchase right away and take the appropriate action to find out who did it. Then I would start the process of prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.
Here is something else of which you need to be aware.
My sister-in-law was visiting and we were talking about the advantages and disadvantages of the Internet. She said she had clients come in to her office wanting to close their accounts because “they did not want their information out there in cyberspace.” She confirmed my thoughts that after you are on the grid by doing any online banking or even opening a banking account without joining the online services, there is no “taking back” of your information. It is out there and will remain so until the end of time, or the Internet, whichever occurs first.
What my sister-in-law then said confirmed exactly what I believed: If you are not on the Internet, you have no way of checking your accounts to determine whether someone has stolen your information or used it illicitly. Not having immediate access to all of your accounts also does nothing to keep anyone from stealing your information. If you have a bank account, the bank will place all of your information in their databases and on their servers anyway, so if there is a breach at the bank, the bad guys are getting your numbers regardless.
At least by maintaining an online account, you can track and immediately know when something has happened to any of your accounts. If you are waiting for the mail, it could be 29 days or more before you realize you are the victim of ID theft. At least if you are keeping watchful eye over your accounts online, you can take action right away when a theft occurs in your name, which is one of the most important things about taking back your name and proving you were the victim of fraud.
Here’s hoping you and your accounts stay safe – and secure.
©2014 J. Clark
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