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10 Ways to Prevent Identity Theft (and What to Do if it Happens to YOU!)

In this episode of the Personal Finance Podcast, we’re going to talk about how to protect yourself against identity theft and what to do if it happens.

In this episode of the Personal Finance Podcast, we’re going to talk about how to protect yourself against identity theft and what to do if it happens.

 

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Transcript:

 

On this episode of the Personal Finance Podcast, how to protect yourself against identity theft and what to do if it happens.

What's up everybody, and welcome to the Personal Finance Podcast. I'm your host Andrew, founder of Master money.co. And today on the Personal Finance podcast, we're gonna be talking about what to do to prevent identity theft and what to do if identity theft ever happens to you. If you guys have any questions, make sure you hit us up on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter at Master Money Co.

And follow us on Spotify, apple Podcast or whatever podcast player you love listening to this podcast on right now. And if you wanna help out the show, leave a five star rating and review on Apple Podcast or Spotify. Cannot. Thank you guys enough for leaving those five star ratings and reviews. They truly mean the world to me.

Now, today on the podcast, we're gonna be talking about how to protect yourself against identity theft, and this is something. That is really, really rising here in the United States and across the world. In fact, identity theft scenarios have increased drastically this year alone. And the F T C reported 1.4 million identity theft reports this year alone.

Not everybody actually reports it when it happens to them, 'cause most people don't know that they need to report it. When identity theft happens, which we're gonna talk about here in today, and of those identity theft reports, 1.1 million. Of those total identity theft reports made up people from the age of 30 to 39, which is 25.9% of the victims of identity theft and $8.8 billion were lost to fraud in 2022 and $5.8 billion were lost to fraud in 2021.

So as you can see, this is rising over time every single year. Over 100,000 different identity theft breaches happen every single year, and there are 50,000 cases of identity theft reported in the US alone and 50,000 personal data breaches every single year. Now listen, this is a topic that for me, I. Is very personal.

I had my identity stolen. I will talk about that later in this episode. But this is something where if you get your identity stolen, it is an extremely stressful, frustrating, and time consuming process. So we need to talk about this to make sure that you protect yourself. This is going to be an all-encompassing episode.

To protect your wealth and with your wealth protection plan, you have to have a plan of protecting yourself against identity theft. And so that is one of the biggest, biggest things that you have to protect yourself from. 'cause you are most susceptible to identity theft and you don't even know it. So I'm gonna show you in this episode how to protect yourself against that.

And in addition, I'm gonna show you what to do if it actually happened. And if you don't know what identity theft is, this is when someone goes out there and they steal your identity and they do a number of different things. Maybe they go out and they buy things with a credit card. So they go and open up a credit card in your name and they start to buy things with a credit card.

Maybe they get new credit cards in your name and just start recycling cash on those credit cards. Maybe they open a phone or electricity bill. Or gas account in your name, maybe they steal your tax refund. Tax fraud is going way, way up when it comes to identity theft or they use your health insurance information to get medical care.

This happens all the time now, or they pretend to be you if they get arrested. So a lot of criminals do this. They pretend to be you when they get arrested and all of a sudden you have a criminal report and you have no idea this is going to happen. So this has implications across. All sorts of different things, and this is a major, major problem that you really need to protect yourself against.

So let's get into how to protect yourself against identity theft. Hey guys, real quick before we start this episode, if you are interested in this step-by-step guide and you want to have this on paper, we created a P D F version of this episode to give you all the information that we're talking about in here because this episode is, Information heavy.

So I created a P D F guide for you. Just click the link down in the show notes and you'll be able to get that P D F guide and be able to protect your identity and keep yourself safe from scammers out there. Alright, so the first one may be obvious on the surface, but it is to be smart with your passwords.

And what I mean by this is you need to be intelligent in how you create your passwords. You've heard us talk about our wealth protection plan and how important actually protecting your passwords is, but this is something that you definitely need to really focus on more so, because a lot of people use the same exact password for everything across all their online accounts.

This is a major problem that you absolutely do not wanna do. What you wanna do is for. Every single website, you want to change that password, and most people do not do this. Now, there are so many different password managers out there that will help you keep track of this. Some of the best ones out there are LastPass.

That's the one I use. There's also one password. I have a lot of friends who use one password, so those two online databases are great. If you don't want an online, obviously you could take it offline if you want that extra protection, but I just like the convenience of having it online. I'm willing to take a little bit more risk in order to have it on there.

And these password managers are gonna be able to store your passwords for every single account. So if your dog's name is Waffles and you use waffles 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 on every single account, that's going to be a problem. So instead use waffles 2, 3, 7, 4, 5, 8, or whatever else you want to do. And I would not use your pet's name ever in this scenario.

That's what you can do in order to store it there. So it goes on all of your devices, which is why I like those products. And you can go and access it anywhere in the world. Number two is really, really be cautious about suspicious links. Now, this seems obvious on the surface as well, but they are getting so much better with these suspicious links.

So number one is if you are a email user, you're going to get emails that come in that look exactly like stores that you shop at. So a lot of these people are getting so good at this that they actually will send you emails at stores that you shop at or at companies or newsletters that you subscribe to, and they will make it look.

Exactly like that exact company. And so what you have to do is really, really be cautious on the links that you click, whether it's online and or in emails. In addition, you have to be extremely cautious on the links that you click. If someone sends you some random text message between those two things, they will try to steal all of your details no matter what you do.

So something like this just happened to me recently where I was looking for a customer service phone number. Online so I could call a specific company and get a couple of things fixed within my account. And so when I went to look for this company, this is a massive company that all of you most likely use.

And so when I went to go look for the phone number of this company, the number one link on Google, I. Was for this phone number. It wasn't an ad, it wasn't anything else. It was the number one ranked article on Google and it looked exactly like the company's website. And so I just immediately clicked that phone number and called that phone number.

And so when I called that phone number, all of a sudden I'm on the phone with someone who sounds like a customer service rep. And then all of a sudden we started to go through the process of fixing some of my issues. And then I realized something was a little off with this conversation. And so as I went through this conversation, They immediately, this is where they threw the red flag up, is they wanted me to download an app so they could fix my issue through my phone.

Obviously that becomes a major red flag and I think about this stuff a lot. They were really, really convincing up to that point, and so this is something where you gotta double check every single link that you're clicking, every phone number that you're calling, every time you chat with customer service online, it may not be the right website.

You gotta look at the website and really see, hey. Is this the actual company? So just be really, really careful. They're getting so much better at doing that. Number three is if there is a suspicious call, like I just talked about, hang up on suspicious calls immediately. I have had friends who have gone out and told me that they've gotten phone calls and they've been suspicious calls.

And they've gone through the process and talked to those people. What you wanna do is hang up immediately. If there's any suspicion whatsoever, it is not worth the risk. No matter what type of problem you are trying to solve, you need to hang up on those calls immediately. The last thing that you want to do is someone to be able to access any of your information whatsoever by being on the phone line with you.

Number four, and this should be part of your money routine, is you need to review your credit card and bank statements frequently. Now, this is something where I do this pretty much every single week no matter what. And if you wanna put it into your daily routine, that's something that could be great as well.

Now, I'm not saying look at your brokerage account every single day, 'cause I don't think you should be looking at your brokerage account every single day, but looking at your credit card statements and seeing if there's anything that's suspicious that comes up. Every time I start to look through my statements, I see little things that I wanna double check on and figure out, hey, are those actually things that I spent money on?

Because what people do when they steal your identity is they start by making small transactions within your bank account that you will not notice. And sometimes they'll make transactions for extremely long period of time because it is so profitable for them to have that cash flow from your bank account.

Your hard earned dollars, they're stealing from you outta your bank account with these small transactions, and they play the volume game. So, This should at least be part of your weekly routine is checking out your bank accounts. We've talked about weekly and monthly and yearly routines on this podcast a number of times.

If you wanna check out that episode, we will link it up down in the show notes, but making sure this is part of your weekly routine to just check your car transactions and make sure that you are looking through that stuff. Even if you do something like reverse budget, you at least need to be doing this in order to just stay on top of your money.

This is exactly what that does is it keeps you on top. Of your money. Number five is for your quarterly reports. Make sure you are checking your credit reports regularly. So I'm gonna show you exactly how you can do this for free in a second here. But you need it every single quarter. At least check your credit report maybe bi-annually if you really, really wanna stretch it out.

Really checking your credit reports is gonna be something that makes sure that you can catch things that are not true in your credit report. 'cause the longer you wait for this stuff, the harder it is to get it resolved. So you gotta make sure that you are checking your credit reports. So, uh, there's a bunch of different folks that I use out there, but annual credit report.com is completely free and you can request the report fairly easy.

So, You just go online and you just fill out a form, and then you just request your credit report from Equifax, Experian, TransUnion, all of those. They ask you a couple of questions. You verify your identity, and then you review those reports online. And what you do is when you're checking those credit reports, you can spot discrepancies, you can address them quickly, and you can prevent identity theft.

Because once you know why somebody has some of these things on your credit reports, you can see it immediately. So, for example, when I got my identity stolen, one of the things that they did was they went out and they opened student loans in my name. And so by pulling the credit report, I caught that and realized, okay, this is something that I did not do.

Reported it as many places as I could. We'll talk about what to do with your identity stolen in a second, and all the steps that I took. And then what you do is then you can protect yourself that way. By looking at your credit report. So really, really important to make sure you put that into your money routines if you do not have them in your money routines currently.

Number six is to protect your personal documents. Obviously this is something that's pretty obvious, but most people do not do this, so you may have heard somebody say, never put. Bank statements in the trash can, and this is absolutely true because there are folks out there who will actually go through garbage looking for bank statements so that they can actually work through and find a bunch of information to piece together to steal your identity.

There's a really easy solution to this, and it's not fun to do. But it's getting a paper shredder, shredding ain't easy, but somebody's gotta do it. So you just run your paper through those paper shredders and just throw it out whenever you can, or you can just rip it up and tear it up, whatever you want to do.

But making sure that documents with your social security number on there are destroyed so that the nothing ever happens. You can also, if you have a lot of bonfires, maybe you live in a cold area, you could put them in the bonfire, things like that as well. And then, Another place that your documents could be stolen is your mailbox.

You definitely wanna double check your mailbox. We have a mailbox at my house that actually has a lock in key on it to prevent some of this stuff because it's happening so frequently across the country. And if you look at the numbers, a lot of mail is getting stolen now and it's a major, major issue. So, and if you go on vacation, one good thing that you can do is if you go on vacation, you can have the post office just hold your mail for you.

That way you don't have a bunch of mail coming in and. At risk of people stealing a large sum of your mail. Number seven, and this is one of the best preventative things to protect yourself online, I've talked about it before, is to freeze your credit and freezing your credit. The way that this works is it prevents you from identity theft, it prevents you from online fraud.

It prevents so many different things. So what this does is if someone tries to apply for credit in your name and your credit is frozen, they will not be able to do a single thing then. Once you're ready to apply for a new credit card, or maybe you're getting a mortgage or some sort of loan, then you just unfreeze your credit and then all of a sudden you open that loan and then once the loan's open, you freeze your credit again.

So it literally is bulletproof to stop anyone from opening. I. Anything in your name, freezing your credit is imperative for most people. I think most people need to be doing it. It's a little bit of an extra step. I know it's annoying, but it will literally protect yourself online where you never have to worry about this stuff if you can freeze your credit.

So great thing to do, and the way that you do it is you call the three major. Credit bureaus, it takes 15 minutes to do the entire thing. You call Equifax, you call Experian and you call TransUnion and you can fill out a form online, or you can just call them directly to freeze your credit, whatever way you prefer.

Number eight is to be careful on public wifi, especially if you're traveling internationally. And or if you're traveling here locally, you gotta be a little more cautious on public wifi. Obviously, don't go in into your bank account on public wifi and make sure you have extensive firewall settings, disable file sharing.

You can even use something like A V P N, which is an extra cost. It's an extra step, but you can use A V P N in order to make sure that when you're browsing the internet at coffee shops or whatever else you do, that you are protected there and only navigate on SS s l secured websites. So S S L secured websites are definitely.

What most websites are, what all the major websites are, but you wanna make sure that those are the only actual websites that you go on. Now, if you wanna know if a website is SS s L secured, you need to make sure that you're navigating only sites that use H T T P S instead of H T T P. So the SS is the secured.

There. And that will allow you to see upfront if they are secured. You can also, especially if you're on a Windows install antivirus software that's gonna allow you to protect your computer and your investment in your computer, obviously. But in addition, it'll help you protect your identity if you have any viruses, and it detects scans and deletes viruses from your computer.

And then number 10, the last step is, and I think this is the most important one, this is the one that's gonna save you the most time, is to remove your personal information from the internet. So this is something that when I worked in the corporate world, I had my identity stolen through a phishing scam.

And it was one of the most stressful things that I ever had to go through. And it was a nightmare to try to make sure that I could protect my identity for any future attacks. So I decided to figure out a way that I could minimize the risk of this ever happening again. And one of the ways that I decided to minimize that risk was to remove my information from the internet.

'cause I Googled myself and all of a sudden I found my information was literally. All over the internet, specifically my personal information. Now, when I first started doing this, I decided, Hey, I'm gonna remove my information from the internet. I started to contact all of these websites, and oh my goodness, this literally took hours and hours and hours to try to remove my information.

So I realized very, very quickly that this is an extremely complicated process. Sometimes you have to send a letter to these companies. Sometimes you have to send a bunch of emails. It's really hard to find the email address that you're sending it to. So I looked for a even better solution 'cause I was spending hours doing this and obviously time is money.

We know that if you listen to the Personal Finance podcast, that time is money. So I found a service called Delete Me. And if you've been a long time listener on this podcast, you know how much I love. Delete Me. Delete Me will literally save you hours and hours and hours of time. What Delete me does is they go to these data brokers and they remove your personal information off unwanted websites and lists, and this saves you so much time and effort and energy, and getting your data removed from these data brokers is one of the best things that you can do to protect yourself online because now if they find a piece of your information, they can't find the rest of your information that's online.

So it's literally like having your own personal assistant working for you on your online protection. I love Delete Me. That's why I love them so much. So I love this service so much that I decided to partner with, delete Me to help you guys. And with this partnership, we get 20% off of the Delete Me Service.

So if you go to join delete me.com/pfp and use promo code pfp, you'll be able to save 20% off your Delete Me subscription. So if you go check it out now, That's join delete me.com/pfp and you can use that promo code pfp and you'll get 20% off. And seriously, this is one of the best services that I found within the last year.

I absolutely love them because of how much time they actually save you. So you need to remove that information off the internet no matter what. Anyways, why not let somebody else do it, who is a professional doing this so you don't have to worry about it anymore. You can go back to earning more money, working on building out your wealth instead of worrying about these little things.

At an hourly rate that is absolutely laughable. So definitely check out, delete me, use that promo code, P F P, so you can get some savings on that, and they will save you and help protect you from scammers like this online. Now let's get into what to do if this actually happens to you. Alright, so when I was in the corporate world, like I said earlier, I got my identity stolen.

And when I got my identity stolen, they literally got everything including my social security number. So this was through a phishing scam. They got a ton of employees at my corporate office. They got all of our information through a series of unfortunate events. And so, When they got my information, I'm gonna give you the steps that I followed in order to make sure that, that this did not escalate worse and some things happened, but it could have been a lot worse if I did not do all of these steps.

So I'm gonna give you these step-by-step guide here. What to do if you get your identity stolen and you really need to know this, even if it hasn't been stolen yet. This is great information to know because a lot of this stuff will help you protect yourself as well. Number one is you want to contact the F T C, so the Federal Trade Commission.

Who handles identity theft for the US government. So you wanna contact the F C T C immediately, and you can go to identity theft.gov to do that, or you can call their phone number, which is 1-877-438-FOUR 3 3 8. Then what I want you to do, Is contact the three major credit reporting agencies and tell them to place fraud alerts and a credit freeze on your account.

We're gonna talk a little more about that in a minute. And then the fraud department at your credit issuer's bank, you need to call them up as well and let them know where all your accounts are and let them know that this happened and give them more information on it Now. That's the first step is to do those three things.

We'll give a little more detail on those in a second here. Number two is I want you to contact the company where fraud occurred, and you need to let them know that this happened, fraud occurred here, and you're gonna give them all the information and ask them to close and freeze all of your accounts.

Number three, I want you to place fraud alerts. On your credit report, so you only have to contact one of the major credit bureaus, which are to remind you, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. You only have to contact one of them and they are legally obligated to contact the other two if you are worried for some reason that they're not gonna contact the other two, even though they have to do so.

Then you can contact the other two as well, but place a fraud alert on all your credit reports so that they know that you have a fraud alert on there. This is gonna be a major thing that you definitely, definitely need to do in order to catch some of this stuff. That's what I did, and that's how I caught some of these things that were being opened in my name.

Number four is you need to obviously review those credit reports. What I would do is soft inquiries weekly on your credit report to see what kind of new things are happening. Now, when you call those major credit bureaus, they can tell you how to do that, or you can use the tools that we've talked about here earlier in the episode.

But making sure that you pull soft inquiries weekly is gonna be really, really, really helpful. To make sure that you catch everything. So do that for a while, because sometimes what these folks do is when they steal your identity, is they wait a year or two. Sometimes they wait three years and they just wait it out because they know you're monitoring this right now, but all of a sudden you're gonna soften up and you're not gonna be monitoring it as hard, and then boom, that's when they strike.

That's when they steal your information. So making sure, I mean, this is the unfortunate thing about getting your identity stolen is it's a lot of work. It's a lot of extra things that you have to do. So protecting yourself is so incredibly important. Number five is to dispute errors with credit bureaus and businesses.

So you need to make sure that you are disputing any errors that are on your credit report with other businesses. This is a very, very important thing to do. And then number six is consider a credit monitoring service. So there's a lot of credit monitoring services out there. There's companies like LifeLock.

Experian has one. There's a. Bunch of different ones out there. Find one that fits your budget that's going to protect you in a way that you want to be protected and invest in that. In addition, you can also invest in things like identity theft insurance. A lot of businesses should be doing that where they have insurance policies out there.

That will allow you to actually protect yourself against identity theft if it happens to you, and you can also do that to prevent identity theft is get that identity theft insurance. Number seven is to report identity theft to your local police. Now, let's get real about this one. Not much may come of this to report to your local police, but if they catch someone who stole your identity and they find that information you need to have this reported already.

Otherwise, they have no connection back to you to resolve this issue. So you need to report it to your local police. The likelihood of something coming of that is not very, very high, but if they catch somebody, it will really, really be helpful to your case when they catch that person. So always, always, always do that.

I know that step is a pain in the butt and it's probably not something you wanna do, but always do that to do your due diligence. It's really, really important. Number eight is to change all your passwords and update your security. So if you are like what we talked about the top of the show and you're changing all your passwords, making them each one unique, this is gonna be a really big pain in the butt.

But if your password's the same across all the board, now is the time to make sure that you would make this adjustment and you actually change all your passwords and make sure that they are all unique. Listen, I know we're on number eight. I got more here and I know some of this stuff is time consuming, but it's really, really important in order to protect yourself online.

Your wealth protection plan is such a powerful thing. You do not want to interrupt your wealth building journey, and the last thing you wanna do is somebody to steal your identity and you have to interrupt your wealth building journey. So making sure you do all this stuff is gonna be really, really helpful.

The next thing is to freeze your credit. So we just talked about that at the top of the show. You really need to do this as quickly as you possibly can, but freezing your credit will allow you to make sure that no one can open any type of account in your name, whether it's a credit card, whether it's a student loan, whether it is a personal loan, whether it is anything else out there.

They cannot open a new account without you knowing because your credit is frozen. This completely protects your finances online. You always really should have your credit frozen. I know it takes 15 minutes every single time you wanna freeze it and unfreeze it, but how often are you truly opening credit cards or getting a new mortgage or getting taken outta car loan?

All these different things, couple times a year maybe. So it's really not that big of an investment overall to completely protect yourself. I mean, this is like bulletproof, locked up, freezing your credit is the way to go. Number 11, close any new accounts open in your name. Obviously, if there's new accounts open in your name by these scammers, then you wanna close those accounts and contact those companies.

Obviously always remove bogus charges from your account who says bogus anymore, and then correct your credit report. If any of these things happen, you gotta report it back to Experian, TransUnion. 'cause if they get your information, they're gonna be doing something with it. So you're gonna have to correct all this stuff as you go through this.

And then the last one is, and this is a question I get a lot, just should you consider legal advice. So I talked to attorneys. When this happened to me and when I spoke to attorneys, they gave me a lot of really, really good advice on what I need to do next. So this is something that you can definitely, absolutely do, and it's definitely gonna be something that if you consider legal advice, it is definitely something where they will actually be helpful in your situation.

They gave me a lot of really good nuggets of advice that I probably would not have done legally if they did not tell me. So I think it's worthwhile to at least go for a free consultation if they have free consultations, get some ideas for what you need to do in your situation so that you can figure out if that you have any legal parameters around this situation.

So the attorney that I use is a actually really close friend. Is a really close friend of mine. He's actually a big YouTuber on the attorney side as well. If you go to lawyer, you know, on YouTube, that is my attorney there and he's a good friend of mine. So, If you wanna talk to him, he may direct you somewhere else or you can go talk to him.

And his name is Peter Trago, so definitely check that out as well if you're interested. And let him know that you came from the Personal Finance podcast. So between all of those things, this is how you protect your identity. This is how you prevent yourself against identity theft, and this is also what to do with identity theft.

So listen, I hope you guys learned a ton in this episode. I know this is a lot of information. In fact, what we can do is we will create. Some sort of opt-in for you so that you can have this step-by-step guide if you want it. That way you'll be able to kind of read through this stuff and learn more about how to protect your identity.

I appreciate you guys listening to this episode. Thank you so much for investing in yourself because that is what you are doing when you listen to this podcast. If you got value outta this, share this with family members, share this with friends, and also don't forget to leave those five star rating and reviews if you have time.

Thank you guys again so much for listening to this episode and we will see ya. On the next episode,

 

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