Valentine’s Day can be painful for those who have lost their significant other through a breakup, but it’s particularly painful when the ex has stolen their ID to boot. The Automobile Club of Southern California reminds consumers that they need to protect their information even at home and among close friends and family.
“The last thing you expect a loved one, friend or roommate to do is set up credit cards in your name and rack up debt you could be responsible for repaying, ruining your creditworthiness in the process,” said John Straser, the Auto Club’s Financial Services Program Manager. “Unfortunately, this happens more than you would think. Addictions or suddenly bitter feelings can turn someone you think you know into someone who causes you a great deal of financial and bureaucratic pain in addition to emotional hurt.”
Ten to 14 percent of identity thieves in recent years have known their victims, according to the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics. But while the majority of identity thieves are unknown to the victim, consumers can take many steps to prevent ID theft that will help protect them from both known and unknown perpetrators.
In response to rising numbers of identity theft victims, the Auto Club offers two member benefits that provide identity theft monitoring. ProtectMyID® Essential is included for the lifetime of membership, for members who choose to enroll. It provides basic credit monitoring of members’ Experian credit reports, plus lost wallet assistance. ProtectMyID® Deluxe offers comprehensive daily monitoring of credit reports from all three major credit monitoring bureaus, plus many other valuable features to safeguard identities of both members and their children. It is provided to members at a substantial savings.
The Auto Club offers the following tips to assist in preventing ID theft:
- Trust must be earned in a relationship. A spouse likely should have access as needed to your financial information, whereas a boyfriend or girlfriend probably should not. If you suspect something is not right in any relationship or a breakup is imminent, take steps to protect your personal information by changing passwords and establishing separate accounts if needed.
- Use a safe or locked file cabinet to store all bank statements, tax returns, credit card statements, or other information that might include account numbers, Social Security numbers, or passwords.
- Opt out of credit card offers by calling 1-888-5-OPT-OUT (1-888-567-8688) or visiting www.optoutprescreen.com. This will prevent you from receiving mail that family members, roommates, or household guests could use to establish credit in your name.
- Be careful with your purse, wallet and checkbook when you have visitors. An identity thief needs only a credit card account number and expiration date to charge thousands of dollars in your name.
- Adopt a healthy wariness of your teenage children and their friends. Even the best-raised teens will push boundaries and defy their parents. Keep personal financial information out of reach to them.
- Establish security on your home computer with usernames and passwords you do not share, and log out or shut down every time you finish using it.
- Don’t choose passwords that are obvious and could be guessed by friends, family or acquaintances who are visiting.
- Consider enrolling in a service such as “Protect My ID” Deluxe – available to Auto Club members at a 56 percent discount for $8.95 a month – that will alert you immediately if there are signs the identities of you, your spouse and your children have not been compromised.
- Be wary of housesitters – who may bring guests along inside your house while you’re gone - and keep all personal documents locked up safely while you are on vacation. When leaving town, request a “vacation hold” on all mail from the U.S. Postal Service by calling (800) 275-8777.
- If you live with a family member or roommate you do not trust, consider diverting your mail to a post office box.
- Follow the same precautions at work to prevent coworkers, clients and employees from accessing your personal information.
Finally, no one wants to accuse a friend, family member or coworker of a crime, but if someone has violated your trust and assumed your identity, file a police report. Without a police report, you will have difficulty proving identity theft, repairing any damage to your credit score, and dealing with creditors who have been defrauded in your name.
Enrollees in ProtectMyID Deluxe and ProtectMyID Essential have access to fraud resolution support from a dedicated agent if their identity has been stolen. For more information on ProtectMyID benefits, visit AAA.com/identitytheft.