I am doing some housekeeping. It seems that I have over 250 prompted posts that I have not published, just sitting there. This is on top of the nearly 800 I have already written. I recently just completed an annual writing project that I have done for the last seven years. That story will be published here some time in March. In all of this, I now have four book ideas that I need to finally “get off of the pot” and get writing. So, I will get at least one of those posts sitting in my cue published. It is a bit of a public service announcement, more than about my survivorship or parenthood, though clearly both have been and can be impacted by the topic.
Lock yourself out of your Apple product, or worse, completely forget your super secret information that was originally given when you purchased an Ipad. What happens? You are “SOL”, or sh*t outta luck.
Just bought a really cool game system used at a yard sale? But when you go to sign up for programs or apps, you get a message that the unit has already been registered previously (obviously by its previous owner).
This lengthy number is located just inside of your car’s windshield. Literally, it is called a vehicle identification number or VIN. It is a unique identifier to the vehicle and its owner.
We here, in the United States, have our own unique identifier, called a Social Security Number. This set of digits is just as important as a car’s VIN, a TV game console serial number, or Ipad model number. Unlike the list of these and many other material items, the security of our SSN, is not only not taken as seriously, is also not as protected.
It is likely at some point in a person’s life, some form of our personal life will be breached, whether bank records or even a social media account. We deal with any issues that arise with corrections and alterations and move on. Usually these “hacks” often go without apprehending the individuals committing the illegal acts, often because it is too difficult to determine.
But for being the 9 most important numbers in a person’s life, there are not enough protections in place, and definitely not enough enforcement when incidents are discovered, and luckily solved. In fact, even if you are a victim of identity theft or identity fraud, involving that SSN, you keep that same SSN. You do not get a new SSN. What you get are a whole lot of extra security steps that will get attached to your number, that you will have to remember, but also change everything else associated with your personal life such as bank accounts and credit accounts. Everything will need extra security steps to help insure your security.
I have studied this issue, because I myself was a victim of identity theft and identity fraud involving my social security number. And it was not because of anything I did, anything I told anyone, or any of the many forms I filled out that required me to submit my social security number. My social security number was actually stolen. But unlike many cases that remain unsolved, I know who did it. I know who used my information. The frustrating thing, was in spite of me knowing this information, I was unsuccessful in court not only in having the individual held accountable for his actions, but having the judge totally dismiss the accusation all together.
Having possession of something that does not belong to you, by any means committed, is theft. Using that illegally possessed information is considered fraud. I cannot explain what was missing in leading the judge not to protect me, but I do know this much. I have made all of the corrections I needed to for my privacy. But also, if I discover anything else being perpetrated against me, my finger will be pointed in that individual’s directions. At some point, legally, this will catch up to him.
But in the meantime, I want to share this with you, to help you protect yourself. Because that is what Paul’s Heart is about, sharing my experiences to help you deal with your situations and overcome any obstacles.
The most thorough process you can find to help you deal with an act of identity theft or fraud, can be found at identitytheft.gov operated by the Federal Trade Commission. They will take you step by step what you need to do right away, soon after, and how to repair.
The first thing to do is to contact whatever entity was affected, where you know the theft or fraud occurred. You need to have a fraud alert put on any and all accounts, and possibly consider a “credit freeze.” The easiest way to figure out who all you need to reach out to, is to get a credit report from all three credit reporting agencies (Experian, Transunion, Equifax).
Once you have done all the notifying, then you need to get to the repairs and corrections. Fight all fraudulent claims. Close every account you have and open new, with the extra fraud protections. I mentioned a “fraud alert” and a “credit freeze,” both of which are meant to do the same thing, protect you, but the alert still allows you to have access as long as verifications are made and is free to have done, and lasts for seven years. The freeze stops all access until you lift the freeze, with fees depending on individual states, and lasts until you remove it.
Of course, like I mentioned, close every account you have, and open new with the added safe guards. Of course identity theft and fraud does not limit itself to just credit and social security, but also for taxes, child identity, and even medical theft.
If a company loses your information, or it is breached, you can count on that company being held accountable. It is when the theft occurs by an unknown person that the uncertainty of a resolution will cause the most stress. Even as I pointed out, even though I know the identification of the individual, the law was actually used to allow that individual to steal my identity and commit an act of fraud. But as I said, with all the protections I now have in place, any future attempt, he will be the first one accused.