Monday, April 7, 2008

How safe is your identity?

I have been seeing the commercials, TV shows: fiction, documentary and talk shows about identity theft and how it is destroying people. Identity theft is a growing industry both the prevention and repair as well as the actual fraud. People are making money at both ends of this. You have to pay to keep yourself safe or to fix it or you end up with someone else’s debt in your name and your bank account cleaned out. There are books and websites telling you how to prevent it, and how to steal someone’s identity. This is a big issue, the fear of having your children or your own identity taken. So now you have to ask yourself how safe is your identity?

You may not think you need to worry. You are not rich so why would anyone target you? It is not a crime done to the rich but to the average person. It is more often a crime of opportunity. The people doing this don’t care that you only have $1000.00 or $300.00 a month to live off, they want whatever money they can get and will take it out of your bank and use your credit to get more. So if an opportunity comes up that they can get your information they will use it. What information about you is already out there, and where can someone find it?

Your mail and garbage is one of the more common ways to get your information. If you have an open mailbox or garbage area I can guarantee someone is going to look into it to see what he or she can get. What do you receive in the mail that has your important information on it? Have you ever not received a bank statement, or a credit card bill? Did it get lost, or did someone take it? What do you put into your garbage? A credit card application you did not want, a pay stub you don’t need anymore, old bank statements, credit card slips, a paid invoice or bill? All of this can be used to get information that can be used to steal your identity. What can you do to protect yourself?

Get a mailbox with a lock. Buy a shredder and use it on anything with your children or your own information on it. Contact your bank and find out if you can look at your statement on line or get it from the bank. Don’t have them mail it to you anymore. Contact your credit card companies and get them to stop sending out applications. You don’t need more credit right now, and if you do you will contact them about it. There are just a lot of simple things we need to do to try and prevent someone getting access to our information.

There is a lot of work involved. It seems that you have to contact your credit card companies every 9 months to request a credit freeze. Credit reports cost money and you should look at them every 6 months, for both you and your children. To make sure your not being taken you have to keep on your toes and know what is in your name. I am thinking that it is easer to let a company like lifelock deal with all the calling and paper work. I don’t have to make it easy at my end by having a mailbox with a lock and shred my paperwork, but I am the type that would forget to re-freeze my credit every 9 months. I figure I will control what I can and try to prevent damage from things I don’t control.

I am not sure if lifelock is here in Canada, but I am sure that there are other companies like it. Identity theft is such a growing crime that helping to prevent it is a great business to be in right now. Lots of companies are going to start showing up with the soul purpose to be the one you hire to keep your identity yours. If I had the know-how and contacts it would be a business I would start. I never thought I would support paying for protection. It is paying person A to keep person B from stealing from you. What a strange twist.

PS: I have just been informed of Identity Theft Shield provided by Pre-Paid Legal Services Inc. for Canadians. Information about this can be found at

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