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, or when a potential mate turns out to be a scam artist. The Automobile Club of Southern California reminds consumers that they need to protect their information especially with new acquaintances, and in general safeguard personal data inside their home.
“The last thing you expect a loved one, friend or new potential partner 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, manager of the Auto Club’s ProtectMyID® member benefit. “Unfortunately, this does happen from time to time. 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.”
About 10 percent of identity thieves in recent years have known their victims, according to the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics Victims of Identity Theft report. 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.
To help provide peace of mind regarding ID fraud, the Auto Club offers two member benefits that provide identity theft monitoring. The free member benefit ProtectMyID® Essential provides basic credit monitoring of members’ Experian credit reports, while ProtectMyID® Deluxe offers - at member-discounted pricing - 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.
The Auto Club offers the following tips to assist in preventing ID theft:
- Scam artists have been known to use online dating sites to meet their victims and steal their identities. Be careful about how much personal information you post on those sites such as details about where you work, went to school, or were born.
- Trust must be earned in a relationship. A spouse likely should have access to your financial information, whereas someone you just started dating definitely should not. If you believe a romantic 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.
- 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.
- Choose passwords that are not obvious (don’t use “Password” or “1234567”) and are difficult to guess by friends, family or visiting acquaintances.
- 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 been compromised.
- Be mindful 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.
- Follow the same precautions at work to prevent coworkers, clients and employees from accessing your personal information.
- If anyone, even a friend or family member, has committed ID fraud against you, file a police report. Without it, 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.
By following these tips, consumers can enjoy their Valentine’s Day, help protect their assets and avoid identity theft. 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 your local Auto Club branch or AAA.com/CreditMonitoring.