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Monday, March 23, 2015

Money Method: Focus on Your Credit

One last tip to protecting your financial identity

The first weekend of spring prompted me to get out of the house and into the movie theater to see Will Smith on the big screen as a classy, smooth talking, con artist in the romance/drama packed film Focus.

Smith’s character, Nicky, and his crew cleverly stole just about anything of value from their unsuspecting victims. They took credit cards, watches, camera lenses, jewelry, clothes and anything that could be sold online. The movie was a learning lesson and a reminder to
always be on guard with my valuables, but most importantly it reminded me to stay focused on my credit and protect my financial identity.

A couple of years ago I shipped a package by registered certified mail, which contained imperative information of me, my children and my ex-husband. The department I sent the package to didn't receive the documents when the United States Postal Service said it would get there.

After several calls to hunt down my lost package I panicked and thought that my identity and my kid’s identity were going to be used for fraudulent activities. “What about daddy’s information,” my daughter asked. “No one can do anything with his information, his credit is too jacked up,” I replied. But the reality was that all of our identities were at stake and it wasn't time to make jokes.

Identity theft protection companies
The next plan of action was for me to put a digital bodyguard on our credit activity. So I reached out to the identity theft protection company, LifeLock, for my family. The company sends alerts to your cell phone and e-mail anytime information pops up for a new account being opened in your name. 

There are three tiers of protection, which starts at $10 a month. I opted for the LifeLock Ultimate Plus for the three of us and pricing starts at $30 a month. The suite comes with reduced pre-approved credit card offers, black market website surveillance, lost wallet protection, credit inquiry activity, bank account takeover alerts, monthly credit score tracking and a range of other services, including sex offender registry reports. You’ll always know when a sex predator moves within a five mile radius of you.

A few days after I signed up for LifeLock I called the mail room of where my package of pertinent information would have been sorted. It was my last attempt to figure out what happened to our sensitive documents before calling my ex-husband to alert him to what may have happened to his information. It took about three phone calls to find out that my package was sitting in their delivery box for about a week. Relief is an understatement of how I was feeling. I didn't have to call my ex-husband after all. And for a brief moment I thought to cancel my new LifeLock membership but I didn't want to go through the headache and stress of “what if someone stole our identity” again.

ONE LAST TIP

I’m sure you already know several tips to protect your credit. Check your credit report every quarter, memorize your social security number and leave your card locked away at home, don’t click on unfamiliar links from your computer, and shredding your bank statements are just a few that comes to mind. Now, LifeLock is just one set of eyes that can keep tabs on your credit, but there is one unique tactic that can be done to keep your identity safe.

A friend of mine, who I’ll call Marcia, had her wallet stolen. She canceled all of her cards, got a new drivers license and she changed her personal identification numbers (PIN) to her debit and credit cards. A year later she gets a call from her bank alerting her that a large sum of money was withdrawn from her savings account. The culprit kept Marcia’s old identification, bank cards and practiced forging her signature. Her banker told her that there really was nothing that she could do if the perpetrator had all of her information in their possession. And to make matters worse, the thief had features resembling Marcia’s photo from her lost drivers license. She ended up having to freeze all of her accounts and had to place an alert on all of her credit cards.

The one thing that Marcia could have done was to ask her bank to put a unique alert on her accounts if anyone, including her, were to come in to make a withdrawal. “Don’t have the obvious, like what’s your mother’s maiden name,” I advised. Instead, have questions to answers only you would know.
  • What’s the make and model of your first car?
  • What county were you married in?
  • What was the name of your imaginary friend?
  • How many wisdom teeth do you have left?  Now I know what you’re thinking, the wrongdoer can guess four, three, two, one or zero. But these are your questions and your answers. Your answer can be 6 or 1,500. The thief would never guess that answer.

The same can be done for your credit cards and anything that is associated with your financial history. You should also call up your credit card company and ask them to place an alert on your account for any charges over XYZ amount. Try not to have each card with the same alert amount.

Remember, thieves are tricksters and they are always one step ahead. It’s up to you to stay focused on your credit and financial identity.

Do you have a tip to protecting your identity? Leave them below in the comment box.

- TCsViews













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