3 Steps to Protect Your Identity

Key Takeaways

  • The data breaches you hear about in the news are not about hackers getting in to somewhere and taking information, but about corporations mishandling your information which in turn ends up getting leaked.
  • Once your information is stolen in a data breach, it can take anywhere between one and five years before you see any fraudulent activity.
  • The three ways to protect yourself from identity theft are to freeze your credit, monitor your credit with both free and paid services, and use credit cards, not debit cards.

Have you ever seen those movies with creepy clowns that are in chairs, under beds, and in other dark places? Really scary, right? You can get that feeling about identity theft, where someone takes your information and wreaks havoc on your life. It can be scary to think that someone can access your information and you might not even know about it.

I just saw this really great video clip by a man named Frank Abagnale. You might recognize that name. Leonardo DiCaprio played him in the 2002 movie Catch Me If You Can. You might remember the redemptive side to the story, where he ends up working for the FBI. He’s been working for the FBI for the past 41 years, and he’s become a subject matter expert over the past 20 years in cyber security. If you watch this video between 37:30 and 47:30, he covers identity theft and how to protect yourself. I’m going to give you the short version.

What Frank says is that these data breaches you hear about, it’s not about hackers. There aren’t a bunch of creepy hackers out there trying to get in to your information. It really comes from corporations who control your data, and someone in that organization either doesn’t do something they are supposed to do, or they are supposed to do something with security that they neglect. What’s important to know about this is that your information won’t necessarily be used right away once a data breach has occurred. It is typically warehoused by crooks for one to five years, so you may not see any fraudulent activity for a while.

So what can you do to protect yourself from identity theft? Here are three ways:

  1. Freeze your credit. You can go online to the three credit agencies, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, and request that your credit be frozen. It may cost you some money depending on the state you live in, but it’s only about $10 to $15. They will provide you with a PIN with which you can unfreeze your credit. By freezing your credit, you can ensure no one can apply for credit in your name.
  2. Credit monitoring. There are both free and paid for credit monitoring services you can use. You can go to once a year to receive a free credit report from the three credit agencies. There are other free credit monitoring services, but one thing to remember with them is that they will not take care of you if your identity is stolen and there’s been fraudulent activity. For that, you need a paid credit monitoring service. These services cost anywhere from $10 to $30 a month and they will help you resolve any fraudulent activity that takes place with your information.
  3. Use a credit card, not a debit card. If someone steals your debit card information, they have direct access to your money, and it takes a while to get it back once it’s stolen. Frank is very clear about debit cards, saying that they are the worst way to do any kind of transaction because of how insecure they are. Credit cards are protected, meaning that if your credit card number is stolen and there are fraudulent charges made, there is insurance against that, and you can get the charges dropped immediately, no money taken out of any accounts.

If you do these three things, you’ll be well on your way to making sure you are safe from all those clowns out there trying to take your information and use your identity.

Until next time, enjoy.


Learn more about TransformingWealth™ , our proprietary approach, designed to get your arms around the big picture so you can make informed financial decisions. Ask Gary about Coyle’s TransformingWealth Preview Meeting, and schedule a complimentary consultation and start living the Good Life Managed Well™.

Gary Klaben is in our Glenview, IL office and serves our clients who are now located all over the country. He has over 30 years of experience and is the author of Changing the Conversation, The Wealth Sanctuary and co-author of The Business BattlefieldWhether advising his clients, mentoring his team, or coaching entrepreneurs, he is always simplifying complexity and motivating others to take the next action that’s right for them.
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