The day before I gave birth to Gray I attended LifeLock's luncheon at the famed Tavern on the Green. I literally went into labor on the way home! I learned during the session which included finance expert, Jean Chatzky, that new parents are 5x more likely than the average population to experience identify theft. When they shared the information about new homeowners and identity theft I wasn't as alert since we weren't planning on home-owning soon, but they informed us here in NYC-metro it can apply to renters too. At the time I had no idea that we'd be moving this fall but now that we are I've picked up the book Stolen Identity which we received at the event to refresh on a few pointers shared during the discussion.
Only 138 pages and full of anecdotes, it's a very easy read. Published by LifeLock but written by an independent journalist, Katie Morell, I really appreciated that the book wasn't a hard sell for LifeLock and had clear checklists at the end of each section to help the reader avoid identity theft.
Thinking back on my own experience while I've never had outright identity theft I did have my Pinterest account hacked earlier this year (first world problems I know!), but it was definitely an eery feeling as the person then started generating content and changed my settings so it was cross-posting to Twitter. Mr. Lovebird on the other hand did have a bigger and bizarre breach a few years ago when someone purchased hundreds of dollars worth of Burger King in one fell swoop using his credit card. While we never found out who the culprit was his company was quick to clean up the charges and issue a new card. Prior to that I remember an incident in college when someone asked to borrow my ID to get into a party. There was no way I was going to hand over my ID, but now the thought of what could've gone wrong even then makes me shudder.
Throughout the book there are also mentions of what the government is doing to help consumers combat identity theft. Since the book was published just this summer it's very update on legislature, and I have to say I'm quite disappointed at some of the bills that have gone flat. Big business vs. ID theft is a tough balance apparently.
Stolen Identity also makes it clear that the rest of the world is way ahead of the U.S. when it comes to implementing technology to protect its citizens. Just like smartphones, it's going to take a while before we're up to speed. Even with fingerprint technology there are still even workarounds that have been developed to hack it. Nothing is fail proof!
While it's easy to feel helpless, Stolen Identity armed me with a few tips that I'm definitely going to implement especially as well as we move and our information is floating around between so many hands from the movers, new services to be installed and major purchases. Here's a few that stood out:
- Don't give your SSN freely - did you know it was only created for retirement benefits but expanded to be essentially your ID number as it is now? It's not always necessary when you see it requested. I've started leaving it blank on forms and questioning why it's even needed
- Use your hand to shield ATM transactions - skimmers are scary contraptions basically fronts for the real ATM which take your card and pin number quickly and without most people noticing - they're even Bluetooth enabled now. I watched one of those nighttime specials on skimmers and it's incredible how prevalent they are (check out this clip)
- Use a credit card over a debit card - this one's hard since I'm of the Dave Ramsey mentality that says use a debit card for EVERYTHING, but I'm changing this thinking especially because in the event of fraud debit card liability just can't stand up to the protection a credit card offers
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**UPDATE: The giveaway's been extended! It now ends on Thursday, September 18 midnight with the winner announced on Friday, September 19.**
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Have you or someone you know had your identity stolen? How do you protect yourself?