The image of the kitty with its tail fluffed and hunched back is exactly the way I felt a few weeks ago. I received a postal letter that raised the hairs on the back of my neck. Something was not sitting right.
With way more identity theft incidents and data breaches at banking and commercial institutions than I care to count despite being meticulously careful with my personal information, face it, on some level I have come to accept the odds are simply against us. According to a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report, in 2013 roughly 25 million US adults were affected by 17 types of fraud. These were mainly as a result of fraudulent products such as “weight loss, prize promotion, internet services, and work at home programs”. In 2017, $16.8 billion was stolen as a result of data breaches from 30% of US consumers reported in a Javelin Strategy & Research study. As chips in credit cards have made hacking more onerous, criminals have turned to account hacking and counterfeiting to score.
The cajones of one incident a few months ago still has me astonished and incensed. A woman in Arizona had written a check at Michael’s Craft Store for nearly $400. The check was printed with my account and routing number although the design and layout were completely different. Furthermore, her name, address (in California), and driver’s license were written on the check. Michael’s approved it, and astoundingly, the bank did not flag such an obvious and brazen bad check. Fortunately my credit card company has been on the ball when my credit card had been previously hacked. The bank and the local police and the AZ police were uninterested due to the negligible amount from their perspective. Had I robbed the bank of $400 in person, I am certain they would have been highly engaged! And while the bank acknowledged that it was obviously theft, they were not going to reimburse me until their investigation was complete. Oh hell NO! I raised the issue to their office of the president after days of indifference. My perseverence took way too many days and hours of lost time. My lesson: now I refrain from using my own checks to avoid criminals confiscating my account numbers. I bank online or use the online banker’s check option.
Fast forward a few months, in mid-January I received a letter from my bank stating that they had tried to reach me via email about an address change, but the emails were returned due to an address error. I had made a change to one of my business accounts a week before although NOT an address change. It was odd that my email address should be rejected because that had not changed either. The hairs starting rising.
As a rule, I never call the phone numbers or use the email addresses on correspondence or emails. And while the letter used the bank’s actual web domain, the phone number provided was fraudulent as I suspected. Therefore I asked my banker to give it a buzz so that would not have my phone number. She immediately hung up when the voice response system requested a debit card number. That phone number was in no way associated with the bank after they did some digging.
Now here is where things get really interesting. The letter sent to me listed a bank account number which did not correlate to my account number. As my banker carefully scoured my account, she detected that the account number listed is an internal number associated with my account that no one should have access to except the bank. WHAT??? My suspicion is that either the bank was hacked or its an inside job. I am super thankful that I did not respond to their email or call the number listed.
Due to my leeriness, ok fine, paranoia, when e-bills arrive, I do not click on the links for the bills. I type the website to download the statements. It’s shameful that we have to use extra cautionary steps, but honestly I prefer to take extra steps versus days or weeks dealing with the hassle of another fraud event. As I mentioned above, despite my best efforts, some outlandish breaches could still occur. There is only so much we can do the statistics cited are proof. Just remember to protect yourself as best you can. Avoid clicking on those links, responding to emails or using phone numbers on any correspondence that cause the hairs on the back of your neck to stand at attention. Even if the hairs are resting comfortably, it is still wise to use the contact information on previous bills, call your local banker, or use a phone number you trust. Stay safe and remember DON’T respond to anything PHISHY!
Along with holiday merriment, every year we notice a spike in criminal activity reports on the news, NextDoor feeds, and word of mouth this time of year, groovy. Protecting ourselves, our families, and our possessions are among our top priorities, at least for me they are.
One way to protect yourself and by extension your home is with this super simple tip. I learned this from a professor years ago as a Criminal Justice major amid our studies of various types of crimes and ways to minimize your risks.
I realize The Department of Motor Vehicles and possibly your auto insurance company stipulate that you should keep your car registration and auto insurance documents in your glove compartment so that whoever drives your car has access to the proof of ownership and insurance. But think about this, if your car is broken into or stolen, the thief not only has access to these documents and some personal information, it is also a likely indication that no one is home and with some quick hot wiring, they have the wheels to get there. Of course, there may be others in the house while you are out running errands or at work, a spouse, a roommate, but what if your kiddos are home alone or the house is unoccupied?
In the nearly 40 years I have been driving, I have never left these documents or any type of receipts in my car for this reason. When I receive the updated insurance and registration cards, I make copies and place them in each of my purses so when I switch out purses, I do not forget to put the cards in. To cut down on papers cluttering my wallet, I print my car’s identification information on one side and my husband’s on the flip side so I am covered regardless of the car I drive.
For lining up 2 separate ID cards so that they match up on both sides of the documents for printing, here is my trick. You may have a simpler version with a photocopier.
Download the pdf of your ID card.
Open a word processing, desktop publishing, or photo editing program.
Press Print Screen on your keyboard to capture image.
Paste your ID card into whichever program you choose.
Select your crop tool, and crop the ID card.
Then place it as far up on the page as you can if you wish to make multiple copies for each of your purses or to give other family members.
Select copy and paste 2-3 times. You can probably squeeze in 3-4 copies.
Print current page.
Create a box by outlining each of the ID cards with a rectangle or square depending upon its shape. You can copy the first box and paste it over the other cards.
Remove the current ID cards but leave the boxes. You may have to play around with layer order such as “move to the back” pushing the ID cards to the front so you can “Cut” them.
Now repeat these steps for ID card #2 such as your spouse’s card:
Press Print Screen.
Paste their ID card into the program.
Select your crop tool, and crop the ID card sizing it to match one of the boxes.
Copy and paste to fill the remaining boxes.
Now print the current page. Be sure to face your paper in the direction your printer recommends to ensure that the image prints on the opposite side and in the correct location. My printer requires me to place the print side down and top side facing into the interior of the printer.
Fingers crossed, they should line up.
Yeah, my purse could be stolen, in fact, that happened years ago, but this is about minimizing risks not completely eliminating them. At least they didn’t get my car too. Under House Bill 2107 signed into law during the Kitzhaber administration in 2013, you may also choose to produce an electronic version of your insurance card if stopped by law enforcement. However, ensure you always have your phone with you and that it is charged.
As with any tip, use your own discretion. Have a safe and enjoyable holiday season.