By now, anyone who owns a home or even just owns a computer knows that there are more than enough people out there who are waiting to commit fraud against you. Yes, we are all aware of the most obvious methods, but the bad guys are pretty clever and can occasionally trip up the more sophisticated among us.
Of all the things that can be done to us, none can be quite as bad as having your identity stolen. The best way for them to do that is to take out a credit card in your name and use their address. By the time the unfortunate credit card company figures it all out, you can have quite a mess on your hands. Fortunately, there is a free and easy way to protect yourself against this type of fraud. It is called “freezing your credit.” I cannot think of any reason for anyone not to take this simple and free step.
Call Equifax credit bureau at 1-888-548-7878 and direct them to freeze your credit. They will notify the other two credit bureaus for you. No one will be able to check your credit, unless you notify Equifax to release the freeze. You will need to save your password in a very safe place. It is quite a nuisance to unfreeze your credit without your password. No one will lend any money in your name without seeing your credit report first
Another way to protect your identity is to shred all personally identifying information before putting it out in the trash. At the Lankin household, this is quite a ritual and involves five or ten minutes a couple of times a week. Since we also take care of business matters for an elderly relative – I have to shred her trash too. It is ridiculous to put your banking information in a can outside your house once a week. That would be looking for trouble.
One thing that most people know by now is that the bad guys use gift cards. As soon as someone mentions the words, “gift cards,” you know that they are trying to defraud you. It is a great reason to hang up.
Have you received an e-mail asking your for help, signed by someone who would not normally be calling you for help? That would be a good message to ignore.
To paraphrase Saddam Hussain, “the mother of all frauds” is to steal your house. The best way for them to do this is to have a vacant house. It is easy to make up a deed, and with some effort, bad guys can find a Notary Public to notarize it. To protect against that, list the property with a licensed agent with a sign, which will substantially reduce the possibility that this will happen.
When someone you don’t know calls you, the best advice came from your mother who told you not to talk to strangers.