ID Theft: How to Keep Your ID and Your Money $afe
So it happened!

Shayne and I got hit last month twice with ID theft. Someone took $400 from our business account electronically and then someone took a check from my wallet and wrote themselves $403 for ‘A Days Work’. I'm wondering what type of 'work' that is because I might be in the wrong profession!

I have no idea how they got my check and the only places I am is at work, church or it could have been in passing from one location from another.

But the point of this post is to share what I just learned. I went to represent my school at the Chamber of Commerce meeting last month and guess who the guest speaker was? The LAPD ID Theft Captain! So as we head into this holiday season and you're using your credit cards and throwing your ID out there all willy nilly, here are some tips I learned from the LAPD guru on ID theft to give you a heads up.

MEETING NOTES:

The whole ‘stick em up’ robbery scene or pick pocketing for money is so 1980’s. Stealing your ID is the now preferred choice for thieves because there is no significant jail time like there is with robbery or possession of a weapon.

Your mail is one of the main ways they are coming after people. If you don’t own a CROSS CUT shredder, get one TODAY! Make sure anything with your name on it (even junk mail) is shredded. People are even taking mail out of the garbage and the mailboxes that you place outgoing mail to be sent. They use a thin stick with tape on it and ‘go fishing’. They want your checks so they can swipe off the ink and place their info to cash it or use the routing/account numbers to electronically wipe you out.

Happens every day.

People who live in places where the mailboxes are all together (like apartments/condos) need to be even more cautious. They are getting into those easier and easier.  But if you live in a house, don’t get too comfortable. They have video of people walking and driving through local neighborhoods (in Canoga Park, Woodland Hills!!!) during the day and going through people’s home mailboxes while they’re at work. Don't put a ring on it...put a lock on it!

These theives (some are even teenagers) then give your info to the professional hackers for cash. It’s the new ‘dope’ and it pays well. The Captain advised getting a mailbox at a local UPS or US Post Office Box instead if you are able to afford it. Extra hassle but worth it.

Always cover your pin with your hand when you are entering it (at the gas station, ATM’s etc). Thieves are placing little cameras there overnight to record your input and, as you’ve heard, they can place their own swiper in the gas station card readers —any card readers for that matter (like at restaurants or bars). You’ve seen it on cop drama shows but it happens in real life too! Now they have your card number AND pin. Jackpot!

Thieves are also pretending to be company reps and calling or emailing you to ‘update’ your account in which they need your SSN or other personal info. If this happens, don’t tell them anything (get their info if you want), hang up and then call the company’s customer service number to confirm the inquiry. Be weary of giving info to someone who calls YOU, always ask for a number to call them back or rather use the listed customer service number on your bill. Better to be safe than hoodwinked!

YOUR KIDS!!!!!! They are going after your children who have SSN numbers. They are an easy target because your kids won’t check their credit report until they hit adulthood and to find out they have $20,000 of debt already to their name, now THAT sucks. But it’s happening now and it could happen to your babies. Monitor your kids’ information and don’t leave their SSN on forms that you have no idea what is to be done with them. Try to place a freeze on their account if you can.

If they get your ID or your child’s ID, here’s what they can do:

Wipe out your bank accounts
Charge up your credit cards
Open accounts in your name
Steal your tax refund checks
Get a job using your SSN (which in turn increases YOUR stated income and you’re on the hook for more taxes)
Get student loans under your name (and you know how I feel about student loans)
Claim benefits (disability, retirement, etc)
Use your health benefits
 What should you do ASAP:
-Get a cross cut shredder and watch your mail. Have ordered checks be sent to your bank (or job) and pick them up there. If a credit card is being mailed to you, watch for it and call them if it’s delayed.
-Monitor your accounts daily/weekly. If you report an incident too late, more of the liability is on you.

-If you aren’t buying anything big (a car, house, or opening an account), place a 3 month freeze on your credit every quarter. This stops anyone from using your info to open new accounts. Without it, you’re open to the world. Wide open.

-Monitor your credit reports quarterly or at least yearly. If you have been hit with ID theft, FILE A POLICE REPORT. It proves that it was a real crime and you can place a freeze for 7 years instead of just 3 months. That's what we are now doing.

-Sign up for the ‘Opt Out’ program which takes your name off the ‘pre-approved’ list so companies don’t send you credit card applications that can be stolen and filled out fraudulently. www.optoutprescreen.com

Skim through the attached book the LAPD Captain gave me (links below). If you are hit with ID theft, don’t move on and forget about it once your bank refunds you the money. There are extra steps you should take to fortify your ID information. They walk you step by step on how to not get hit again (hopefully).

This post isn't to evoke fear but to remind us to use common sense. I’m more cautious about putting my info out there (via new apps that need info, or on sign up sheets, etc) and you should be too.

Your ID information is the new gold…protect it well.

 Check out this site as well. ftc.gov/IDtheft

Be blessed and safe!

Genein Letford