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Identity Theft, Part II

by Jaimie Blackman • in
  • July 2019
  • The Sound of Money
• Created: July 10, 2019

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Image by TheDigitalWay

Last month, my MMR column focused on education and awareness of identity theft, a crime which has impacted every part of our life.

Types of information which have been compromised include: Social Security number, credit/debit card number, protected health information, DMV records, financial accounts, and email/ password. Source – ITRC 2018

In part II, I will be sharing best practices for identity theft prevention, monitoring, and recovery. Just in time for your summer travel season: a gold mine for thieves.

Let’s start with a personal story.

In 1972, I visited the beautiful city of Barcelona – the home of Picasso, Gaudí, and Dalí. Unfortunately, it’s also the home of a culture of thieves who pickpocket your valuables. I can remember that I was at the Barcelona train station, wearing a man’s bag, hung close to my side. With all the hustle and bustle of the train station, and a carefully choreographed partnership of thieves working the area, it happened. The thief was able to unzip my bag, and take the gold he was looking for: an American passport and cash.

The resulting inconvenience amounted to temporary hunger and sleeping on the beach until my parents wired their weary son money the following day. After a visit to the American embassy, I was off once again.

Today when your identity is robbed, however, the inconvenience is not temporary and the fix not so simple. Your social security number and date of birth can wind up moving around the internet in perpetuity.

In fact, according to Kaspersky Lab, a global cybersecurity company, travelers are more likely to be robbed of the data than their money.

One in five international travelers gets hit by cybercrime. In the last two years, identity thieves have hit the travel industry hard, causing major data breaches at Marriott, British Airways, Delta Air Lines, and Orbitz.

Prevention

One source of identity theft which can be as deadly as mouse trap to an unsuspecting rodent, is unsecured public Wi-Fi. The open territory of public Wi-Fi is like removing the front door to your home. Robbing your data and infecting your device with malicious software is only the beginning. A simple prevention strategy is to turn off the automatic connection to Wi-Fi option on all your devices. I personally use the hotspot option on my iPhone. Bottom line: stay off unsecured, public Wi-Fi networks.

Monitoring

In principal, monitoring is simple to understand. You’re looking for suspicious activity related to personal information and financial accounts. Financial institutions have been stepping up their efforts in alerting customers via text, email, and phone when a suspicious transaction is recognized. Still, there is data to suggest that those who are proactive were able to detect fraud faster than any external source. Visit annualcreditreport.com. Federal law allows you to get one free copy of your credit report every 12 months. This is a valuable resource which gives you the opportunity to make sure your reports are correct. If you recognize transactions you didn’t initiate, that usually is an indication that your identity has been compromised.

Recovery

If you suspect that you have become a victim of identity theft, there are steps you can take. Report unauthorized transactions involving your ATM, debit, or credit card to the issuer’s fraud department immediately. Federal law limits consumers’ liability if the physical credit card has been stolen to $50. However, if you report the card stolen before any fraudulent charges are made, you have zero liability. On the other hand, if your credit number is stolen as in a data breach or hack, you’re not responsible for any fraudulent charges.

It’s important to keep in mind that once your identity has been hijacked, the nightmare doesn’t necessarily end with the issuance of a new credit card. Your data is most likely circulating on the dark web, an area in which anonymous visitors troll the internet hunting for data, which can result in other forms of identity theft, including medical information or driver’s license misuse, and even taking a mortgage out in your name.

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), both the credit bureau and the financial organization are responsible for correcting fraudulent or inaccurate information in your report. To dispute inaccurate or fraudulent information, notify in writing the three primary credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Once the issuing agency receives your notification, it has 10 days to investigate and must notify you within three days of completing its investigation. Visit consumer.ftc.gov to better understand your rights.

If you want to transfer some of the risk to an Identity Theft Protection service, you have dozens of choices, including Life-Lock, IdentityForce, and IDShield. This protection has become so important my own wealth management practice now offers annual identity theft reviews and access to concierge monitoring service to our clients. This is a trend that is bound to continue, where identity theft-related services will be as common as a financial or estate plan. This is a huge topic. A quick Google search for “identity theft” yields 179 million hits. If you, a family member, or a friend have been a victim of identity theft, send me an email and I’ll do my best to steer you in the right direction.

Jaimie Blackman – a former music educator and retailer – is a financial advisor and succession planner. Blackman helps music retailers accelerate business value now through team building, coaching & mentoring. Blackman is a frequent speaker at NAMM’s Idea Center. Visit jaimieblackman.com to preview his value-creation tools and to subscribe to the Unlocking the Wealth newsletter and webinars. If you have ideas for a future column, email Jaimie at jb@jaimieblackman.com

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