Thursday, January 9, 2014

Public Service Announcement

Protect Your Identity

*This is a re-post- I will continue to post this regularly in hopes of reaching as many people as possible*

It sounds so cliche doesn't it?  We see and hear about hackers every day on the news.  It seems cliche but truly it is not.

Everyone I tell this story to, says they should make a movie about it.  I decided to share this story and how it changed my/our lives a few years back.  I chose to share this on my blog in hopes of reaching my followers and help prompt them to protect themselves.  I guess, I finally jumped to publish this because one of my accounts was compromised a few weeks back (and it wasn't even because of my Target shopping believe it or not!)

It is one of those things where you believe "it will never happen to me."

I worked at a small staffing firm.  The owner of the firm was fiscally smart and had done very well over the years.  As a result, he paid cash for most things including his two properties.  Due to being debt free, he rarely, if ever, checked out his credit report; that is, until one day, when he was in one of his bank accounts, and noticed that there was login information typed in for a credit card account that he had never opened.

Hitting on that one thing, opened up a huge can of worms.  Before he knew it, he discovered that several accounts had been opened in his name and in the firm's name and someone was racking up thousands of dollars in debt (to the tune of $250,000).  

The worst part about this story is that the person who stole his information and identity AND his company's identity was someone he not only knew very well but considered family AND trusted.  She was actually our Office Manager.  When I think about it now, I get sick.  I cannot believe this woman was capable of something so awful and I asked myself why she did it.  When he asked her, she said "I knew you would never press charges; I knew that you had the money and I robbed Peter to pay Paul."  Peter being him; Paul being herself and her family.

Like that made it right?

She stole his personal identity by using his name and social security number AND stole the company's name and fed tax id info AND to top it off, committed two felonies; not only grand larceny BUT she opened a PO Box at the local post office so bills would be sent there and she would pay the minimums on the accounts so our owner would never be notified.  I remember that he had said she had gotten away with it for over two years.

Crazy right?

That changed the way we thought immediately.  It shook most of us to the core.  We all had to contact our spouses immediately and rush out to our banks to change all of our accounts.  We had to spend days on the phone with credit card companies changing all of that information.

More importantly, and what I urge you all to do is what we did and that is to put constant watches and alerts on our credit score with the three major bureaus.  I went overboard and now get daily alerts on any and all activity on my credit; you can never be too safe.

As it relates to the criminal in this case, she will not get away with it again; well, maybe with another sucker but not anyone who was involved with our firm; she is being watched.

That doesn't mean that someone else out there won't try it.  As I mentioned, I was just hacked two weeks ago.  My Paypal account, that is attached to one of my checking accounts was broken into and someone was taking money out. Paypal, I must say, was wonderful.  They immediately refunded me the money and started an investigation; the good news is that over 95% of the time now, they catch these creeps.

In light of recent events at Target (one of my favorite places on earth) and my PayPal scandal, I urge you all to put measures in place to protect yourselves.  We work so hard to build our credit and do the right thing; why let someone steal that from you?


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