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Preventing Home Invasion, Theft and Assault
Be careful who you let into your home. Do you really know everyone you let into your home? Think about all the people you open your doors to on a daily basis: landscapers, swimming pool cleaners, sitters (plus the sitter’s boyfriend or girlfriend), repair people, delivery services and the list goes on and on. To the extent you can keep any of these people out of your home, do so. It’s nice to give someone working outside a drink, just give it to them outside. To the extent someone must be in your home, vet them well. Do all you can to check references. When using a service that will visit your home regularly like a pool service or lawn service, always use a reputable company. These people know who is home and when, including when your kids are home alone or when no one is home at all. They learn your patterns, and you may find yourself inviting them in on occasion. Running a background check is not overkill.
If you think this is over-the-top paranoia, it is not. Eighty-six percent of home intruders have been in the home before (Paul Michael Viollis, “Getting Safe for 2014,” Worth, December/January 2014). That means the overwhelming majority of the time when there is a theft, violent crime or abuse, the intruder was once invited in welcomingly by the homeowner. Keep that in mind before inviting people you don’t know well into your home.
Be careful using social media. One way to unwittingly let a criminal into your home is through the use of social media. Be very selective about any pictures you post online. Most pictures are now tagged in a way that someone can identify exactly when and where they were taken. You can unwittingly let a potential thief, or worse, know which rooms are where in your house, when you are home and even scarier, where the kids are in your home. Keep in mind that any image you put on the internet is out there for all sorts of people to see. Even if you limit your circle of “friends”, people have their accounts hacked all the time and 100% of the time they are hacked by criminals. Do you want them to have a picture of your kids or your home?
Increasingly, home invaders are using social media to establish when someone will not be home. They know this because of all the fun pictures you are posting of your trip to the Bahamas … while you are in the Bahamas.
Finally, if you have children, guard their social media usage like a hawk. Stalking, kidnapping, sexual assault and bullying are starting online more than any time before. You should also be concerned that your kids will say or post something stupid that harms them for the rest of their lives. If you think colleges and prospective employers don’t check you out on the internet, you are mistaken.
Preventing Identity Theft
Identity theft is on the rise across the US and the techniques used to steal identities range from the mundane to the ultra-sophisticated. The following tips will reduce the chance of having your identity stolen
Preventing Identity Theft – 20 Things You Can Start Now
1. Change the name on your checks to read first initial followed by last name rather than your full name. If someone gets a hold of your check book, they won’t know how to sign your name.
2. In the signature line of your credit card, write “Ask for ID”. If someone steals your credit card, they will not be able to use it in person.
3. Get three free credit reports each year. You’re entitled to a free credit report once a year from each of the three major credit bureaus. Order one every four months from www.anualcreditreport.com or by calling 1-877-322-8228.
4. Use cash or a credit card, not a debit card when practical. Neither cash nor credit card leaves any trace of your bank account information.
5. Leave your social security card at home and don’t offer your number to anyone unless it’s for tax, employment or credit purposes.
6. Shred financial documents you no longer need.
7. Ignore phone or e-mail solicitations or “security checks” from institutions you do business with unless you initiated the exchange.
8. Ensure you are using updated anti-spyware and anti-virus software on your computer.
9. Convert what bills you can to online bill pay, as the odds of being a victim of online theft are a lot lower than the odds of offline theft.
10. Make a copy of the contents of your wallet. If your wallet is stolen, you’ll know exactly what you had in it and all of the account numbers and phone number to call and cancel.
11. When writing checks to pay your credit card accounts, DO NOT put the complete account number on the “Memo” line. Instead, write the last four numbers. The credit card company knows the rest of the numbers and anyone who comes across your check during processing channels won’t have access to the account number.
12. List your work phone number on your checks instead of your home phone. If you have a PO Box, use it instead of the home address. Never have your social security number printed on your checks. You can add it if necessary, but if it is printed, anyone can use it.
13. Watch for shoulder-surfers. When entering a PIN number or a credit card number in an ATM machine, at a phone booth or even on a computer at work, be aware of who is nearby and make sure nobody is peering over your shoulder to make a note of the keys you’re pressing.
14. Destroy digital data. When you sell, trade or dispose of your computer, or a hard drive or even a recordable CD, DVD or backup tape, you need to take extra steps to ensure the data is completely, utterly and irrevocably destroyed. Anyone with a little technological knowledge can recorder data from a formatted drive. Physically destroy CD, DVD and tape media.
15. Check your statements. Be aware if one doesn’t arrive when expected and check that charges are legitimate and match up with your records.
16. Collect mail promptly.
17. Be cognizant of your billing cycles. If bills or financial statements are late, contact the sender.
18. Don’t leave a paper trail. Never leave ATM, credit card or gas stations receipts behind.
19. Get on the “Do not call” list.
20. Carry a photocopy of your passport when you travel. Leave your real passport in your hotel safe and carry the copy with you.
If You Are a Victim – 4 Steps to Take Immediately
1. Close the accounts that you know, or believe, have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
2. Contact the toll-free fraud number of any of the three consumer reporting companies to place fraud alerts on your credit report.
Equifax: 1-800-525-6285; www.equifax.com: PO Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
Experian: 1-888-397-3742; www.experian.com: PO Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013
Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289; www.transunion.com; Fraud Victim Assistance Division,
PO Box 6790. Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
3. File a report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place.
4. Get a copy of the police report, it will help with creditors who need proof of the crime.
File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. You can file a complaint online at www.consumer.gov/theft.
While identity theft in on the rise, there are simple steps you can take now to reduce the probability you will be a victim. It may take a bit of effort, but it is time well spent. Recovering your identity once it has been stolen can be frustrating and time consuming.
We live in a high tech world where criminals use technology to gather information from the unprepared and unsuspecting. Today, when we become a victim of this type of crime, we often unwittingly open the front door for the criminal on the internet, by being careless with sensitive information, or we quite literally let the criminal right into our home. The best way to protect yourself and your identity is to exercise caution in both the online and offline world.
Preventing fraud, identity theft and staying safe
Copyright © Michael Vold Law