What do you mean identity theft and me? I am well protected, it won’t happen to me. Go ahead and keep lying to yourself. Identity theft is a lot easier to accomplish than you think, as the story below will show.
Sasha had taken a 2 year Private Investigators course and was attending college studying to get her bachelors in Criminal Justice. She kept up to date on the laws and crimes here within the U.S., uses a shredder for all mail, only buys online through reputable companies, etc….She thought she had herself and her family’s identity well protected. Apparently she should have been doing more. Her husband had his identity stolen by his ex wife who refused to turn over her old military identification card to gain services in his name and Sasha’s was stolen by, according to her local police department, a local Big Lots employee who disabled the self service credit card reader at the counter, so the customer would have to hand the credit card to the employee who in turn made a quick impression of it before completing the transaction through the cash register credit card reader.
Thankfully because Sasha was already aware of Identity Theft Crimes, she was able to catch the theft of her identity within hours of it being used, which is key. She was able to recover 100% of her lost money. Her husband’s identity theft was caught years later after ordering a credit report. Thankfully though the creditors in turn removed all bogus charges and instead went after the ex-wife as did Tri-Care for insurance fraud. Although both ended well, the husband’s was a two year process to clean up compared to the wife’s that took a matter of just a week. Catching the crime quickly is the key.
Unfortunately, happy endings like above are rare in Identity theft cases. As spouses of Service Members it is even more important to be vigilant in keeping not only your identity safe, but theirs as well. Look on your military identification card. What do you see? Your sponsor’s social security number. In previous years not only did it include their social security number but the social security number of the dependants as well. Imagine what would happen if your military ID got in the wrong hands! Thankfully, the government realized this and has since replaced the dependents social security number with X’s. The sponsor’s social security number, however, is still there. What’s worse is we have to carry this ID with us everywhere.
But have no fear, there are some tips you can (and should) follow to protect you and your service members identity from those pesky predators.
1) Shred all incoming mail (yes even the junk mail).
2) Invest in a locking filing cabinet and USE IT for all sensitive paperwork.
3) Never give yours or your spouse and/or children’s social security numbers out to anyone, unless absolutely necessary. If you are asked for it, ask why they need it and what they will use it for.
4) Check your bank account transactions daily. Immediately call your bank if you do not remember making a transaction. (This also goes for credit card accounts).
5) Check your credit reports at least twice a year. Call all creditors listed that you do not recognize. Ask for proof of the debt. By law you can obtain one (1) free credit report from all three bureaus every year. Just go to AnnualCreditReport.com to get your free copy.
6) Never hand your credit/check card to a cashier (see the story above, the cashier quickly made an imprint without anyone noticing). Instead use the self service one at the counter to swipe the card yourself.
7) If it looks like a device has been added to a credit card machine or ATM, DO NOT USE IT!
8) Do not leave paperwork in your car. This includes receipts and anything else a criminal may find useful. For registration and paperwork that must stay in the car, lock them in your glove box, and of course always lock your car, even if you think you will only be running inside for a second.
9) When using an ATM make sure no one is around you. A cell phone with a camera or video is all that is needed to take a picture of not only your card number but your PIN.
10) When checking out at a store, never allow your credit card to be seen, cover it with your hand until you are ready to swipe the card, and then block the view while swiping. Again a camera phone is all that is needed to take a picture of your card number.
11) If you are able to invest in a mailbox that locks, do so! If not, you may also want to look into getting a P.O. Box for all bills and statements and use your home mailbox for junk mail, etc…
12) If at all possible do not order items online, unless you know for a fact that the company is legit and reputable. When making purchases online, make sure that the address bar starts with https:// not http://. Look for a hacker safe seal and veri sign seal. All three let you know that the site is secure.
13) Do not give out credit card information over the phone or in e-mails. If you need to make a payment over the phone make sure you have called the company and not the other way around.
14) Keep your social security in a locked safe at home and only carry it with you when you absolutely need it.
15) Never leave your Military ID (or any ID for that matter) in your vehicle.
16) A common mistake a lot of Service Members as well are their spouses make is to hand their military ID when someone asks to see identification. Do you not realize that when you do this you are showing that person your sponsor’s social security number. Remember there are people in this world that do have photographic memory, they only need to see those numbers for a split second.
17) Dependent children should only carry their military identification card when absolutely necessary. This will create less of a chance of them loosing it or misplacing it.
These are just some tips to help your identity stay safe. Protect it as you would protect your own child. An ounce of prevention could save a lifetime of misery.