Invasion of the identity snatchers
The concept of someone stealing your life might sound like something out of Hollywood, but the reality is that identity theft happens all the time. And the scary part is that we're all at risk ...
Imagine somebody stealing your life – wearing your clothes, sleeping in your bed, doing your job. Your friends and family might not even notice you’re gone … not until it happens to them too. That’s the plot of the 1978 film 'The Invasion of the Body Snatchers', where aliens plot to take over the world by growing copies of human beings and replacing them one by one. Creepy, right? While we’re pretty sure the world isn’t being taken over by pod people, something a lot like this happens regularly in the financial world – identity theft. Being a victim of identity theft means that somebody has enough of your personal information to convince financial institutions that they are you – which means they can tally up enormous debts in your name. Fortunately, there are ways to protect yourself and ensure that your identity remains yours.
• Report identity theft immediately – a lost or stolen wallet can contain more than enough information for thieves to start creating a fake ‘you’.
• Change your PINs and passwords regularly to protect credit cards and online banking details.
• Buy a shredder and destroy all documents that contain personal information when you no longer need them – even seemingly innocent mail that’s addressed to you (such as utilities bills) can be used to provide proof of ID.
• Keep a record of when regular bills are due, and contact providers if your bills don’t arrive on time – stolen account details can provide thieves with a lot of personal information about you.
• Never, ever provide your bank account or credit card details to callers or emailers who claim they are from your bank, credit or utilities providers. Take a ‘better safe than sorry’ approach and contact these organisations yourself to confirm the validity of these calls before handing information over.
• Never store your PINs or passwords on your mobile phone, and don’t keep them in your wallet either.
• When you’re shopping online, check the security of the website you’re accessing (you can read more about how to protect your online identity in our ‘High-tech Protection’ article).
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Wilson Luna is an author, wealth adviser and founder of Your Family Your Money. Your Family Your Money’s goal is to simplify traditionally complex financial strategies, demystify financial jargon and debunk common financial myths, becoming every family’s first stop for financial advice, information and inspiration.
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