I just got my debit card number stolen. Someone used our business checking card to buy $160+ worth of pet supplies, with the billing address as MINE and the shipping address as some lady in Utah. But I caught it! HA! Too bad for you, Dishonest Utah Pet Lady!
How did I catch it? By simply reviewing my statements. An easy habit that takes almost no time, but can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars! I would never have known if I hadn't looked, because the card was still in my wallet.
When I saw the charge for pet supplies, I called our bank, the charge was reported, I was refunded for the amount, my card was cancelled, and a new one was on the way. It took about 15 minutes.
An interview with a notorious identity thief said that this is how they often get away with credit card fraud... they charge something and wait to see if you notice, and if you don't, they ring up the charges until your card is maxed out.
Organizing really helps keep you safe from a lot of identity theft issues, at least making you able to catch them before they get worse.
Here are four proactive habits you can cultivate which take very little time to do:
1. Shred. Get yourself a good shredder and shred anything you're discarding that might compromise your identity, your finances, your privacy, or your reputation. See my YouTube Clutter Video Tip here for tips on buying a shredder.
2. Process mail regularly. The longer mail stays in piles, the longer a thief has to get away with something you didn't catch. And the longer it sits there, the bigger the piles get, and the less likely you will actually look at the statements after you open them.
3. Review your statements regularly. I recommend organizing your finances by having one day a week as an office day to pay bills and get administrative tasks checked off. While you are logged into your bank accounts, you can easily skim through the recent charges to make sure they look right. It takes maybe 30 seconds to a minute to review a week's worth of transactions.
4. Review credit reports annually (at least). The government sanctioned website for credit reports is www.annualcreditreport.com, where you are entitled to a free report each year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. Reading these over will quickly show you whether someone's opening strange new accounts under your name, and if there are other errors, you can fix them and keep your credit sparkling clean.
These habits are directly related to staying organized, but of course, there are many other practices that prevent identity theft, such as protecting your personal information, being careful with outgoing mail, and watching what links you click in email messages. Be careful out there!
According to statistics, out of every 100 of you reading this, 7 of you will definitely experience identity theft this year. So remember, MAIL PILES MAKE THIEVES SMILE! Stay on top of your paper piles and bills.
Has this happened to you? What lessons did you learn? Share in the comments!
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