5 Ds of Identity Theft

Scanned image of author's US Social Security card.

Scanned image of author's US Social Security card. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Identity theft is, at its most basic level, the act of using someone else’s identity or credit without permission.   From a stolen credit card to a forged phone bill in Moscow, it all involves your good money paying for the bad habits of another.    Thankfully, there are ways to reduce the odds of having your identity stolen.  LTC David Grossman reviews the “5 Ds of Survival” in his seminars and books.   Today, I bring you the 5 Ds of Identity Theft.

In the words of the master, “Denial has no survival value.” Denying the possibility of identity theft will not keep it from happening.  You have to take steps to keep yourself safe.  “It could never happen to me” is not a valid defense mechanism in any situation, financial or otherwise.

Deterrence means keeping the information away from identity thieves. The harder it is for the criminals to get your information, the more likely it is that they will move on to an easier target.  And yes, a kid stealing Grandma’s credit card is a criminal and needs to be treated as such.

  • Some people use a shredder, but not me.  I have a fire pit that catches all of my personal documents.  I’d like to see an thief get my social security number from the ashes in the bottom of the pit.
  • Don’t carry your social security card.  If you lose your wallet, your driver’s license and social security card contain all of the information needed to steal your identity.  Keep it locked up at home and don’t give the number out unless absolutely necessary.
  • Don’t use stupid passwords.  Anything listed on yourFacebook profile or otherwise available on Google in association with your name is a stupid password.  Don’t make life easy for the people looking to screw you.  Your birthdate, maiden name, and “password” all qualify as stupid passwords.  Use KeePass to securely generate and store your passwords.
  • Lock up your personal information.  I throw two large parties every year.   Purses and wallets get stored in a locked bedroom, so nobody can grab them.  That was a lesson learned the hard way.  If there’s someone in your home you don’t trust absolutely, lock up anything that can be used against you.
  • Don’t release personal information to anyone, for any reason, unless you have initiated the contact.  Don’t give a credit card number to a telemarketer.  Don’t give a spammer your personal information.  It’s your privacy, use it.
  • Don’t click anything in an email.  If it’s a company you have a relationship with, type the address in your browser by hand.

Detection is up to you. Some credit card companies will alert you to suspicious purchases, but you can’t rely on it.  I was once called because I went to the gas station and Best Buy, which is apparently a common pattern for a stolen credit card.

  • Examine your credit card statements.  If there’s a purchase you don’t recognize, find out what it is.
  • Watch for bills to arrive as expected.  You do know when you pay the gas bill every month, right?
  • Watch for unexpected bills to arrive.  If you get a statement for a credit card you don’t have, it’s a problem.
  • Check your credit report three times per year.  AnnualCreditReport.com will let you see each of the three major credit reports each year.  Space them out so you see your report every 4 months.

Defending your identity happens after you’ve detected a theft. This involves getting your credit and sometimes, your money, back.

  • File a fraud report with the credit bureaus.  This will force potential creditor to follow certain procedures before opening new credit accounts for your identity, including calling your cell phone, if you choose.  Stop the identity theft in its tracks.
  • Close the fraudulent accounts.   Don’t leave them open for abuse.
  • File a police report and report the fraud to the FTC at ftc.gov/idtheft .  This may or may not help catch the criminal, but without it, there will never be a punishment.  Make stealing your identity an expensive proposition.   Hopefully, 1o years of his life will be wasted in jail in return for the theft.

Destroy.  Unfortunately, fraud and identity theft are not yet capital crimes.   Maybe someday.

Deter, detect, defend.  These are the secrets to avoiding, and recovering from, identity theft.

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    1. Great tips! I like the party tip; whenever I have a party, I put my purse away, even if I know everyone who’s coming. Better safe than sorry, I figure.

    2. Great post! My two favorites are “check your credit report 3 times a year” and “check your credit card statements to verify charges”. Those are definitely the two I rely on the most (along with not giving spammers my info…)

    3. “check your credit card statements to verify charges” this is my favorite post. Good one.

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