The Nightmare of Identity Theft
Disclaimer: Views expressed in Bob’s Blog belong solely to the author and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the CAC Office in Aging or its staff.
Are you like me? Have you developed a false sense of security over the years?
I have always lived where there has been little or no crime. I have always felt safe.
At various points in my life, I have visited some undesirable areas. Yet, nothing ever happened to me. I was never mugged. Once I had a car stolen. However, I wasn’t in it at the time and I did get it back.
Regularly in the news or on television, there are reports of older people being mugged and having their identities stolen. I have never worried about that happening to me.
You Know – just because we haven’t been concerned about being victimized doesn’t mean it won’t happen. The sad truth is as we aged, we have become weaker. We’re also not as alert as we once were. Thieves look at us as easy marks.
Let Me Ask . . .
. . . Have you ever thought about how you would respond if you were mugged or had your identity stolen? Do you realize it could be a real nightmare for you? How long would it take you to get back to the way you were before it happened and to be able to trust again? Would you ever?
If your identity was stolen, you might not realize it happened for some time – possibly weeks or months. The cost to you could be overwhelming.
If a thief stole money from your bank accounts, you would have to get your bank to restore it. If they took the money by withdrawing it from the teller at a branch or at a Drive-up window, the bank would be at fault because they did not verify that person was you or authorized to make the withdrawal. The branch is going to investigate it. That will take time.
If the thief withdrew the money from an ATM, the bank would have a picture of the person. However, you still would have to prove you didn’t give them the authorization to do so. After all they had your ATM card and pin number.
If the thief did a wire transfer, it’s a little tougher for you. That required your account number and the bank routing number. How did they get your account number?
Straightening out the theft of money is not easy. You have to prove you did not take the money out yourself or authorize the person who did to make the withdrawal. This takes a lot of time and is frustrating.
Purchases on Credit Cards
If the thief makes purchases on your credit card, your work is a little easier. All you have to do is report the purchases you didn’t make to the credit card company. The company will credit the cost of the purchase back to your account and start its own investigation.
The problem is when the purchases are made in your name but sent to a different address. You have to prove that address is not one you are familiar with and you have never used it.
If the purchase is made by someone in your family, the problem is bigger It then becomes a dispute between you and that family member. You are saying you didn’t give them permission to make this purchase. This can get messy.
Your Social Security Number
It’s amazing what thieves can do with your Social Security number.
They can use it to get your tax refunds, to take out new credit cards and make purchases., open new bank accounts and write checks on those accounts, to get medical services and, even, open accounts in your name with utility companies.
If your identity is stolen, you and you alone have to correct it. This can take months and, even, years. That process can be slow. At many points, prepare to be frustrated by how much you have to do and how long it takes.
The best way to keep this from happening is to take steps now to protect yourself.
You may not realize . . .
. . . Many People Have their Identities Stolen When They Are Mugged or Have Their Wallets or Purses Stolen
Most men carry enough in their wallets to supply thieves with all they need to steal their identity. Women are frequently better targets because they carry so much in their purses.
Here are some of the things many of us carry that any thief can use to steal our identity.
Get in the habit of just carrying the credit card or cards you use the most – no more than one or two. If you have more, leave the ones you don’t use at home. Only take the others with you when you plan to use them.
Social Security Cards
Never carry your Social Security card on you. You probably have your Social Security number memorized. When was the last time anyone other than a government official asked to see your Social Security card? Only carry it when you absolutely have to.
The only time you may need your Medicare card or cards is when you go to see your doctor or are having something done at a hospital or clinic. Leave your cards at home. Just carry them when you see your doctor or go to a hospital.
You may say you need them if you are in an accident and taken to a hospital. A family member or friend can get them for you.
Many people carry a spare key to their home in their wallet or purse. If you do, when was the last time you had to use it? If you’re worried about locking yourself out of your home, hide a key in your car or somewhere outside. It will be there when you need it and you won’t have to carry it with you.
Some carry these.
When was the last time you had to use one? Most places will take cash or a credit card and won’t take checks. Leave yours at home.
Women probably carry more than men because they have room in their purses.
You may think you’re protected because only several digits of your credit card appear on a receipt. Thieves have become much better at figuring a person’s entire credit card number from those few on receipts.
.Password Cheat Sheet
Most of us spend a lot of time online. We do much of our business on internet sites. Many of these sites require a User name and password. We have gotten sloppy and have written all of these down. That may be on a piece of paper. It may have ended up in our wallet or purse.
Is yours in your wallet and purse? When did you last use it when you were out?
If a thief gets that sheet, how much damage can they do to you? At what cost?
Please – for your safety, just leave the sheet at home.
I don’t know any men who carry their passports on them. If women do, the reason may be there is room in their purse.
If you are one, please just dig it out and leave it at home. Only take it with you when you need it when you are traveling.
This surprised me. I never carried my Birth certificate in my wallet. I don’t know any man or woman who carry theirs. Evidently some do.
If you do, leave your birth certificate with your valuables at home. Only take it with you when you have to.
Cash – The Added Bonus
Many of us carry far more cash on us than we have to. While a thief can’t steal our identity from the money we carry, it’s like paying them for stealing our wallet or purse.
Do yourself a favor. Carry only the cash you need at any time.
I hate to admit this.
Over the Years I Have Gotten Sloppy
My Social Security card has been in my wallet since I got it many, many years ago. I am taking it out now. It will remain at home.
I also have 3 credit cards. That is one less than I carried for years. I only use 2. The third will no longer be in my wallet.
I also have a Bank ATM card. To be frank, I have never used it. I don’t even remember the Pin number. I have no idea why I carry it.
For insurance, I have my Medicare card and my cards for Medicare Parts B and D. I guess I felt I needed these just in case I had to see a doctor or ended up in hospital out of town. They will be at home.
I do give myself credit for one thing. I only have a small amount of money in my wallet. Most of the time when I make a purchase, I use a credit card. I get points for using them. I pay the bills off in full every month.
Please join me today . . .
. . . in Taking Steps to Do a Better Job of Protecting Ourselves
Take some time to clean out your wallet or purse. Only carry what you absolutely have to.
If your wallet or purse is stolen, it will be more difficult for the thief to steal your identity. You won’t have the nightmare of spending a lot of time to straighten out all of the damage the thief has done to you.
If you have any comments on what you have read in this post, please email them to me. Also – if you have any ideas about subjects you would like to see discussed in future posts, please send me an email and let me know. My email address is email@example.com.