Like most people, I really wasn’t concerned about identity theft until I started attending business meet-ups a year ago. A wise woman provided a great service to our group by sharing very personal stories—that she herself experienced, coupled with many examples of people who suffered great hardship resulting from identity theft.
Much to my surprise, I had no idea what was going on all around us. The more I learned about identity theft, the more I realized how little I really knew about the subject. For starters, I didn’t know that our government anticipated back in 1999, that there was going to be an identity theft epidemic.
After considerable thought, it made perfect sense. That’s when the evolution of computers exploded.
When I look back at the history (my first exposure to technology in the late 80’s) I remember buying my first personal computer for $2500. It had very little memory and was equipped with floppy disks. Who would have thought that we’d be putting ourselves at risk by automating our personal information?
In the early 90’s, came affordable accessibility to the internet. I remember my first email account with AOL. It was such an exciting time to be able to correspond back and forth with friends, family, vendors, customers and prospective suitors. For me, “You’ve Got Mail” was a real life experience and happy ever after story.
Here we are 20+ years later and it’s almost impossible to compete for our readers’ attention. In an effort to help you understand the magnitude of identity theft and how it can affect you, your family and your business, it is my hope that this newsletter bodes enough value to warrant more information.
Let’s start by validating what I’m saying about the magnitude. Take a moment to visit www.privacyrights.org. There you’ll find 622 million reasons why you should be concerned about identity theft. If you download the report, you’ll see at least a dozen entities that you have done business with at some time in your life. Read how the data was breached. Now, think about what happened with Target and countless other retailers, banks, insurance companies, health care institutions and government agencies. Think about the reported data breaches only being 13% of what’s actually reported.
If you’re of the mindset that you’ll cross that bridge when you come to it, or you think it won’t happen to you because you don’t do anything online, let me share some valuable insight.
1) Unless you’ve never been issued a social security number, the chances of avoiding being a victim could prove futile.
2) Imagine there being 32 billion databases out there. Now, envision 10,000 identity theft rings out there feverously swapping data in order to collect enough information to steal your identity.
3) What if they’re targeting your hard earned cash? Can you wait 14-30 days for a resolution to get your money back…assuming the bank rules in your favor?
4) Credit card and banking fraud is the least of your worries. When thieves use your identity to commit crimes in your name, you’re faced with an incomprehensible set of problems and costly hours and legal fees to resolve.
A week before Christmas, I met with a new business acquaintance who shared that he had just recently been a victim. Thieves had hacked into his checking account and had stolen his funds. Timing couldn’t have been worst, since he was leaving town to visit family for the holidays. After considerable time and hassle, he was able to get it resolved with his bank, but his money was tied up for 14 days. The bank did close his account and gave him a new one, but he will still have to update all his online banking vendors. After hearing that, I keep a log now…so if it happens to us, we can quickly account for everything.
When a couple living in a small town in Michigan became victims of identity theft, their whole lives were turned upside down. Thieves not only drained bank accounts which resulted in overdrafts all over town, but other major purchases and crimes in other states started surfacing. No matter how hard they tried to explain their predicament, their entire community turned their backs on them. No one believed that they were victims. It took a powerful solution and an army of professionals to clean up the mess that was left behind. The professionals also validated to the community that the couple indeed were victims of identity theft.
Last February, I fell prey to an unsolicited email scam. While I was talking on the phone and scanning my emails, I came across an email from the State of Florida Drivers License Bureau. The subject stated that my license was renewed. Of course, I opened it not thinking. In doing so, I welcomed an intruder and the phishing process began. Fortunately, I was able to detect a potentially serious problem and took swift action. I called my solution provider and found that my credit was not affected and there was nothing going on there. My computer was another story. It took ten hours to clean up that mess by a Level 3 Technician. I can’t fathom what could have happened with all of our personal information, or damage to my computer had I not acted.
I leave you now with a couple of questions. First, would you wait to protect your home from a fire until after it happens? Second, would you wait to buy car insurance until after you’ve had an accident? If you’ve answered no to both of these questions, then why would you risk the most important thing you have…your identity? If you would like to learn more, feel free to reach out. I’d be happy to share a multitude of stories and articles I’ve collected on the subject and a plethora of solutions to help protect your family.