"After reading your Newsletter I thought it would be a good idea to order my credit reports.
" From the tone of his voice, I knew what was coming next.
"They just came in this week and I have over 14 accounts that are not mine, and not only that -just this morning I received my first collection call notifying me I owed more $11,000 on my Sears MasterCard account.
I never opened a Sears's MasterCard account!! There was that usual pause of silence.
He was stunned and still reeling from the frightening news and disturbing collection call -and I was taking a deep breath, realizing I was just about to make his life worse by telling him about the dreaded hours and slew of work he had to take on in order to get his good name back.
The truth is -one can't appreciate the vast amount of time it takes nor the physical and mental angst that comes with finding out you've been violated, and essentially stolen...
until it lands in your own life! He quietly listened as I provided him with a laundry list of steps he had to embark on once we hung up.
At the end of our conversation I asked him how he felt about this mess he suddenly found himself in -through no fault of his own...
was he angry? Shocked? Surprised?...
I feel like someone came into my home -slashed and rummaged through my house and personal belongings...
and they weren't invited!" Identity theft or inaccurate credit reporting is just one of those things in life where many of us carry the mistaken belief that it won't happen to us and if it does -so what? We're not responsible for the money...
Right? Wrong! Creditors like you to believe they are the victims -but what they don't tell you is that you are responsible for cleaning up the mess -and often that can take years.
While those years pass by, so too does your time, money and lost opportunities! Typical and common myths that leave many people vulnerable include: "I don't have to worry about identity theft because I live in a small town like Mayberry, RFD!" or "I only use one credit card so I don't have to worry about it.
" or "I only use cash or my debit card.
" Or even...
"I don't have to be concerned about my credit -I have excellent credit!" The reality is data breaches will continue to happen, 10,000,000 people will have their identities stolen this year and recent studies show 1 in 4 credit reports contain inaccurate and damaging data that can cause consumers to pay higher interest rates, insurance premiums, and lose employment opportunities and face humiliating denials of credit -without their knowledge.
Once upon a time, our personal information was just that -ours and personal! We needed only to fret about safeguarding our wallets, credit cards and check books -making sure they remained in our physical possession.
That's not the case anymore.
You may live in Mayberry RFD but you are just as vulnerable as someone living in a large city.
If you provide your personal information to anyone, pay bills, go on the internet, visit restaurants, go to college, go to doctors' appointments, pay for car insurance, ever had a loan, pay property taxes, purchased cars, homes, or ultimately -simply exist on this planet -you are at risk.
Private businesses, universities, local, state and federal entities all have data bases that thieves view as a valued commodity ...
as precious as gold.
When thieves, hackers, or even rogue employees' gain access to a company or government computer filled with our personal and financial information...
it's as though the thief has physical possession of you -and your life.
How was my friend's identity stolen? Here's his latest response to that question...
in his words.
"The story: In '98 I had a Sears' department store credit card.
I never used it.
They stopped sending me statements, etc.
and I forgot about it.
It was later converted from a department store card into a Sears Master Card.
Hackers breached the TJ Max (Sears affiliate) computer and stole the Credit card files.
Then someonewent online and ordered a new card (in my name) to be sent to them in a different state (MA) using my name and SSN.
In 5 days they charged $11,775.
I did not hear about it until last Saturday when the collection agency called me.
" Don't be lulled into a false sense of security that allows you to be complacent, simply because you live in a small town, use only one credit card or only shop with cash.
Your information is out there -everywhere, just waiting to be compromised or hijacked -that's just the reality.
It's much easier to be proactive when protecting your credit and identity than it is to be reactive once "you've" been stolen!