feeling INsecure? …BE proactive!

If you read blogs then I am going to assume you are hardly “under a rock” and thus the term Identity Theft is (sadly) not new to you.

idtheftAdditionally, unless you are totally delusional, I am also going to assume you are aware that there is at least One person or system (more likely) or database that has some form of your identity that you did NOT give them (e.g. your birthday, full name, address… maybe the last 4 of your SSN… maybe your full SSN…)

The point to this post, and a theme that I believe is necessary to Live My (your?) Ass Off, is:
Be Proactive.

I realized (after my identity was stolen in early May of 2015) that I *thought* I was being proactive.  Until I started getting numerous emails about weird charges on a credit card.  A hallway conversation with a buddy where he just mentioned, “yeh… bummer, maybe you should check your credit [rating/score] with that free credit report thing…” prompted me to do just that.  I first contacted the credit cards in question and reported fraudulent charges.  The cancelled the cards, and got new ones (with new account numbers) issued.  Additionally at this time most companies were switching to the “chip” cards.

So, I thought, OK, the cards that were compromised seem to be the ones that don’t have the chip… Coincidence?  Yeh, maybe but it was a simple pattern to label to three cards that were compromised.

THEN, about a day later some jackass bought $600 worth of paint from some paint store in northern California.  Fine… called AMEX, charges reversed, new card issued. Done.

Hummm… what’s the pattern now?  AH HAH!, I’ve got it.. these are all cards that I’ve used at a Home Depot in the last year or so..!!!  Whatev.  Ok that explains it.

As part of my “checking my credit reports” they made it quite easy for me to agree to pay them $19.99.year for some monitoring and notification service.  Fine.

About 24 hours later. Blam! Notification.  A credit card had been opened in my name for a gas card.  Sigh.  At the time I was on my way to meet friends in Las Vegas for a convention.

Two things to note:  1) Dealing with credit card companies and Fraud prevention services means spending time on the phone.  2) There is no place in Vegas that is quiet enough to be on the phone to take care of business like this EXCEPT in your hotel room.
Since I did not go to Vegas to spend time in my hotel room, I cut the trip short and headed home to deal with this.

I wanted to share this link to a great post my friend Colette shared with me from the NY times.

On this page you’ll note that if you click on the buttons for specific credit card companies or businesses (e.g. Home Depot) the left hand side of the page will highlight the type data that was stolen.  Click on HOME DEPOT and EBAY and viola:

AddressBirthday, Credit or debit card, Email, Employment historyPassword (encrypted), and Phone number…

Click on “..applied for a job with the Federal Government..” and WHAMMY, add Social Security Number to the list.  Ugh…

So, because ID theft is so common, sadly, I didn’t have to tell but 2 buddies and one said,
“Oh yeh, that happened to me… it sucks.. do {this}…”

The {this} for me was:
1) put a Fraud Alert on your accounts with all three credit bureaus.  (lasts 90 days then you have to re-do)*
2) put a Credit Freeze on all your accounts with the three credit bureaus (this costs $10/agency and lasts 7 years).  This is pretty thorough and not ever YOU can open up a new credit account… unless you remove the Freeze before hand.

* you can also subscribe to a Fraud Prevention type service and they will renew that for you… like every 89 days… and I would submit this should be your Minimum level of proactive credit protection.  If you need to open up a credit line (e.g. buy a car) the credit inquiry will be halted and the fraud prevention service will contact you (e.g. call your cell phone) to verify that you authorize this.  if you agree then within a minute or two, you’ve got your approved credit.

3) There are actually FOUR credit reporting agencies.. Yep!  INNOVIS is another one.  They are around to provide mailing lists for those “you’ve been pre-approved” offers.  Contacted them too and put a credit Freeze on that account.

4) Speaking of “pre-approval offers”.  Here’s how you opt out of those:  https://www.optoutprescreen.com and it lasts for about 5 years.

So… NOW, I guess I feel like I’m being proactive.  There are NO negative NOR (probably more importantly) unknown items in any of my credit reports.  I have excessive monitoring and reporting on all of my credit files as well as a service that continuously scans “the Internet” to make sure there is no published information about me that could be used to compromise my identity.  I’ve notified my local police department and the opened case is very close to finding the bozo that used one of my cards to charge $44 on a UBER ride in San Francisco…. SPOILER ALERT you moron: UBER drivers have cameras in their cars… (rolls eyes)

I’ll keep you updated but the NY Times article that was sent to me prompted me to want to share with ID Theft / Cyber Security story and hopefully a fairly simple, step by step solution to proactively preventing any credit card fraud or ID theft from spiraling out of your control.\

Finally I wanted to make sure I share another GREAT resource for ID theft victims:
The ID Theft Resource Center
.  It was started by a good friend here in San Diego and offers a TON of free advice; not just in the form of a PDF document but also humans who answer phones or Live Chat to help you through the sometimes frustrating phone tree credit card companies can often force you to wade through before getting to a solution.  They provide Many tips with one simple one being always make sure you are talking with the RIGHT PERSON… seem simple but I can tell you, leading off the conversation with a customer service rep by saying, “I need to speak with your fraud investigator / fraud investigation department” can save you from wasting a TON of time talking to someone who is not qualified to help you.

Hope this helps!

Now, go Live the Dream!  Remember, if you’re not Living the Dream, you’re doing it Wrong!  Being proactive about protecting your Identity and Credit… that’s Dream Living!