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EP 69 - Tips for Identity Theft

On this episode, I want to talk about a topic unrelated to equity compensation but something that is impacting more and more of my clients and maybe you too. Identity theft. It's not a fun topic I know but it is one that is critically important. My goal today is to share are a few key tips regarding protecting yourself from getting robbed of your identity and the headache that goes with it. I am no expert in identity theft but I spend a lot of time in this subject area simply because it's another behind-the-scenes service I do for clients as their certified financial planner.

You will want to hear this episode if you are interested in...

  • A quick look at data breaches from last year [1:06]
  • Why do breaches happen? [2:25]
  • Freezing your credit [3:32]
  • Other tips to help protect yourself from identity theft [5:34]
  • This week’s FLASHBACK [08:53] 

Why do we have breaches?

Breaches happen for a myriad of reasons. First, this data has a tremendous amount of value, especially for people wanting to sell and abuse it. Next, it's cheaper for companies to do the bare minimum and ask for forgiveness. By that I mean corporate losses from a data breach run around $200,000, it's simply cheaper for a company to deal with the aftermath of a loss than it is to pay for the prevention. That's just reality.

What can I do to protect myself?

There is a lot about a breach that is outside of your control but there are some things that you can do to take some control back from the bad guys!

One simple and effective thing to do is to freeze your credit. This simply means to contact the three main credit reporting agencies and lock down your credit. This doesn’t stop you from using cards you own but it will stop others from opening new ones.

Signing up for a free account at Credit Karma is helpful. They'll send you alerts on your credit accounts, whether it's a change of score or even general alerts.

In addition to Credit Karma set up alerts for your individual bank accounts. It's worth your time to set up alerts for things like transactions above a certain dollar amount or if a charge is processed without a card physically being swiped.

Another simple tip is to not put checks in the outgoing mailbox at the end of your driveway. This may seem silly, but I had a client who had a check stolen, and last I heard he was still waiting for the bank to reimburse him four months later.

This may seem like the oddest tip but stop putting your birthday on social media. Having your birthday out there is just another piece of the puzzle that is part of your identity. And certainly don't be putting things like your favorite school teacher or your mother's maiden name or any of that kind of stuff.

This week’s FLASHBACK: Concerts you regret NOT seeing

Today's flashback is about concerts that you regret not seeing. My list is way too long to share, however, I was reminded recently of a concert an old college friend used to lament missing when I recently watched a documentary about Stevie Ray Vaughan. When they discussed his death I had memories of my friend, Scott, who was a huge Stevie Ray fan. Scott and I worked together delivering furniture at the good old Wicker Company so we spent a lot of time in the delivery truck listening to music. 

If we had the radio going and a Stevie Ray Vaughan song came on, he would get upset and start grumbling all because of a fight and a missed concert. He had tickets to see one of Stevie's shows but he and his long-time girlfriend had a big fight and as a result, he ended up missing the show. Scott would finish this flashback story, always lamenting that he missed one of Stevie Ray's last shows because shortly after he died in the helicopter crash. Ultimately Scott and the girl broke up. I'm sure it wasn't due to missing the concert, well at least not entirely. All I know is I broke up with a girl years ago before I was supposed to go see Barry Manilow with her. Talk about dodging a bullet, and a concert I'm GLAD I missed. 

Resources & People Mentioned

I’m Dan Johnson, CFP®, founder of Forward Thinking Wealth Management. I run a flat-fee financial planning and investment management firm located in beautiful Akron, OH. Although I am in Akron, OH, I work with clients regardless of location. I cater to owners of equity compensation positions who are looking to organize their financial lives, keep more of what they make, and do the things they want in retirement and even now.