Wednesday, July 30, 2008

How to Protect Your Identity from Con Men Theft Through Detection

--Signs that Require Immediate Attention and How to Detect Them

Is Murphy's Law applicable? Speak softly, own a big, mean Doberman and a .44 Magnum.

In addition to such sensible close-to-the-vest awareness, however, you must also be able to detect identity theft attacks on you by con men you do not even know. If this happens, and, when asked if your problem is ignorance or apathy, and your reply is, I don't know and I don't care, then you have a still bigger problem.

But, let's suppose this is not the case. Let's suppose you do wish to put yourself in a position to play detective--in order to protect yourself. (The first place to look for a helping hand is at the end of your own arm.) How do you go about it? First, be alert to the signs:

> Bills that do not arrive on expected time schedules. They do not have to be slower than a herd of clams stampeding through Blackstrap Molasses, but, on the slower side, especially, you must be suspicious of possible foul play. Do not put off this important date-checking. Toothaches tend to start on Saturday night.

> Unexpected credit cards and account statements. Beware, particularly, when the fine print is so small that it would burn your retinas trying to read them. People will buy anything that is one to the customer.

> Denials of credit for no apparent reason. You would have to be a few beers short of a six-pack--in the brainpower department--to not hear this alarm bell being blasted at you.

> Letters or phone calls about purchases you did not make. Again, no grain in the silo if you can't figure that this signals hanky panky going on with your good name and accounts. Dr. Phil doesn't have all the answers.

Your first line of defense would be protecting your credit. Your credit report contains much information about you, including what accounts you have and your bill paying history.

Get a copy, at least once yearly. You may think the whole process is as satisfying as feasting on Tofu turkey at Thanksgiving, but always remember, the easiest way to make money is to stop yourself from losing it.

The law requires the 3 major nationwide consumer reporting companies to give you a free copy of your credit report each year,should you request it.. These 3 credit reporting companies are: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

Your free report can be had through any one of 3 ways:

The Net:

Phone: 1-877-322-8228

Mail: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, Ga.. 30348-5281

Red tape? Burdensome? Yes. But, your best alternative, sadly, is to have plastic surgery--cut up your credit cards.

The only other "must"--an important, regular life function--is to review your billing statements and all financial accounts. Do this, as said, regularly. Your diligence in always searching for charges you did not make must be an ongoing, relentless one. Much tough digging might be involved--much like trying to find a plumber on Sunday--but, it must be done.
Continuously remind yourself, all's well that ends. Or, take the coward's way out, simply walk away. (The best way to forget all your problems is to wear tight shoes.)

You must not be naive about any of this. Nothing like asking a barber if he thinks you need a haircut. If you choose to stay with this challenge you need to dedicate yourself to such a defense. Failing that, life could get quite depressing for you.

And, remember, depression is, largely, anger without enthusiasm.

No way to live.


Earl T. Clydson said...

Great list. Great checkpoints.

Terry said...

Glad to see you are back, Jack. My favorite line this time is, Dr. Phil doesn't have all the answers.

Anonymous said...

Not long ago I went over my daughter's back credit card statements. This was because she was very lax in paying attention to the indivicual charges. I found a bunch of unauthorized purchases that totataled to more than $1,900. Sure enough this was somebody scamming her. I'm glad you point out how important this is.

Warren M said...

I get the yearly credit reports and am always a little startled to find various mistakes. Most involve small sums, and are minor. But they are there. And, I can see why it's important to pick everything up. Just like Anonymous, I too know a woman who got taken for over #2,000, only by being negligent in checking her statements.

Jack Payne said...

Dear Anonymous (love saying that):

Yes, I'm glad I emphasized that, too. Never could understand why it's so difficult to get through to people about such a simple thing as protecting themselves from con men. Alas, the majority still does not seem to care. The level of carlessness is truly astounding.

Jack Payne said...

I'd watch those "minor" errors closely, Warren. Often this is the way the scamsters will start out. They just nibble away for a while, with small hits on your account. Purpose is to see if there will be a reaction. It's just a check on you, to see if your are vigilant. As soon as they establish that you are not, look out, it's bombs away--major raids on your credit.

Lana Gramlich said...

Good advice, of course. Thanks for including the ACTUAL website for one's free credit report. So many outlets speak of it, but don't include this direct information!
As a network admin, myself, I also encourage people to learn more about their own e-mails. Just the other day I had to show my husband how I knew the e-mails he got from "U.S. Customs" were actually spam.

Ione Hesber said...

Letters or phone calls about purchases you did not make? It's hard to believe anyone could be so stupid as to not see this as suspicious.

Todd Falstrom said...

My vote for best line is this.
Have plastic surgery - cut up your credit cards. That's a rush of wisdom...if ever I heard one.

RainforestRobin said...

Hey Dear Jack, Good to be here again. I've been running behind with a cracked rib...but it's healing and I'm trying to catch up. I always LOVE to read ANYTHING you write. You are one of the MOST witty people I've ever read...and uniquely so in that you have your own style of wit.

This is an important post because checking our statements, etc. is crucial. Checking everything. Con's happen: My friend just had his paypal account hacked. It's alarming. I can't live in fear but I can live in awareness and take sensible simple steps to protect myself. You give great advice here. Plus I think if we be aware, and take ACTION, then we don't have to live in fear. Great job Jack.

Gene Kranik said...

You are right to accent the credit report, Jack. This is the pivot, the centerpiece of most identity theft scams, the way I understand it. Good post that you have as usual injected a lot of humor into for lighter and more compelling reading.

Jack Payne said...

You raise a great point, Lana. U.S. Customs is an oft-imitated scam. Have meant for some time to do a post on this. Haven't got there yet.

Sorry to hear about your cracked rib, Robin. This has happened to me, twice in the past 5 years. Be careful, especially at night. Can be very paiful if you roll over in your sleep. Usually all cleared up in a couple of weeks though.
Hang tough.

Jack Payne said...

You're right, Gene. The Credit Report is the axis.

Barry said...

Wow, we are on a similar wavelength. I recently made a post about "detect yourself to protect yourself" mentioning the some of these same tips! Good job on this info.

McAlee said...

I like the scope and reach of this one, Jack. Your finger really came down hard on the buzzer, highlighting all the most appropriate points.

Augustina said...

I like, the best way to get rid of all your problems is to wear tight shoes. I'm sure this would push all other problems into a low priority bracket.

Jack Payne said...

I like your headline better than mine, Barry. Detect yourself to protect yourself. That's great.

McAlee said...

A live link on the credit reports helps.

Zombie Money said...

good tips!

Jack Payne said...

Yes, it does, McAlee.

Thanks, Zombie.

Walter's Roost said...

I nearly got scammed by a con artists a year ago...found a lot of phony charges on my credit card statement. Luckily I jumped on it right away and got things taken care of. You are right about it all starting and built around the credit report.

bingkee said...

Thanks for sharing this.