It was about a month after I had joined Zach in Hawaii. He’d brought home some notes he’d taken on scrap paper for a class he was in and, when I was helping him study, I noticed something unsettling. I turned one of his notes over and there, staring back at me, was someone’s social security number. I was appalled–this was someone’s personal information and it was being handed out for students to write notes on!! When I mentioned it to the hubs, he didn’t seem all that surprised.
He knew what I later learned–whereas most people will rarely give out their social, military life means putting your social security number on pretty much everything.
Literally. I mean, my husband has the last 4 numbers of his social painted on almost all the equipment he has and his full social is probably floating around on so many documents I don’t even want to think about it. So, considering that fact + deployments and frequent moves, , it’s really not a surprise that service members and their families are much more susceptible to identity theft than the average American.
So if service members & their families are so at risk of identity theft, what can we do to stop it?
Obviously we can’t always control where our personal information ends up–some things are just out of our hands. However, we can take steps to limit the possibility of identity theft by making smart decisions in our everyday lives. These five simple tips take only a few minutes to implement and could save you the headache–and heartbreak–of having your identity stolen.
1// Be cautious about buying online–always look for the https or the lock icon in the web address before entering your information.
I don’t know about you but I do a lot of shopping online. (My husband might say that I have an addiction) If at all possible, I opt for using a secured payment system like Paypal. But if a site does require entering any debit or credit card information, I always double check that the web address is correct and that the url is secure before entering any of my information.
2// Check your computer for viruses and change your passwords regularly.
Ok, so this one can be kind of a pain, albeit a necessary one. It’s important to use secure passwords (yes those ones with 12 characters, capital and lowercase letters, numbers, symbols, and the blood of Harry Potter) for things like banking and credit cards and also accounts that have access to that information. I’m talking to you, Netflix account. You should also change your username and password every few months + run malware software on your computer. Also, a good rule of thumb is to never save a password to a computer or a WiFi network that can be used by someone else.
3// Keep good financial records so you know right away if there’s a discrepancy.
Check your bank and credit card statements promptly. Zach and I do most of our banking online so we have a routine that every week we look over our accounts and check to be sure all our purchases add up. In the event that you see a purchase that shouldn’t be there, contact your bank immediately.
4// The shredder and the safe are your two best friends.
If you need it, put it away in a lock box or safe and if you don’t need it, shred it! Simple as that!
5// Monitor your credit profile.
The most proactive way to protect yourself is by monitoring your credit profile. Just like you routinely check your banking accounts, you should be checking your your credit reports. Make sure nothing looks suspicious and if anything does, investigate and report it.
If you want to take things a step further, you can sign up for active monitoring and identity theft insurance.
One of the longest running and best companies in the industry is LifeLock, which monitors your credit profile and certain banking accounts and notifies you via text, phone, or email of any suspicious activity.
If you or your spouse is an active or retired service member, you can enroll now by using the promo code WESALUTE3 and receive the first 30 days of LifeLock protection free, plus 15% off, and a free American flag.