Recent Developments & Tips on Preventing Identity Theft

I went to a luncheon last week featuring three investigators from the Glendale (Ca.) police department who specialized in investigating identity thefts. They had some great information for the crowd. Did you know, the amount of money and revenue involved in identity theft crimes now exceeds the amount of money and revenue involved in drug crimes? Yowsah!

Here are a few of the select tips from the officers:

  1. There is no sure-fire prevention for identity theft. It is today a risk of doing commerce in our culture. The best thing is just to get as much information and education on it as possible so if it happens to you, it won’t be a disaster.
    2. Debit cards: don’t use them. Use credit cards instead. With debit cards, the thieves are stealing your money and it’s harder and takes longer to get it back. With credit cards, banks and credit card companies usually re-credit you as soon as you prove that you have been a victim of ID theft.
    3. Checks vs. paying online: for years I have been advising my clients to pay with old-fashioned checks as opposed to paying online. I primarily made these recommendations around the time of huge security breaches at Choicepoint, Lexis/Nexis, etc. A certain number of consumer advocates, including me, felt at the time that paying everything online exposed consumers to security breaches. The Glendale detectives at the luncheon disagreed with this, citing the fact that it is now easier than ever to fabricate a check, and the tellers at most banks are simply not sharp enough to detect false checks. Who to believe? I don’t know, honestly. I’m re-thinking my own financial protection. For years I’ve advised consumers to keep one low-balance credit card for online purchases, so that if they suffered a security breach, they could simply cancel the card and their exposure would not be too extreme. I’m starting to think that one low-limit credit card for online purchases and for bill paying might be the best idea. Depending on your financial circumstances, have one low-interest, low-limit credit card that you use for all online purchases and all online bill paying. If the card is ever compromised, you have to simply cancel that card, and because you are keeping a low limit, it’s not likely that the thieves will be able to get away with major purchases. Overall, I’m thinking this is probably the best plan.

Most of the other stuff from the luncheon involved things I’ve already said repeatedly throughout my socalcreditdamage and socalidentitytheft websites.

In general, I’m very impressed that many police departments, including Glendale, are taking these crimes more seriously and are becoming more responsive to consumers who have become the victims of these crimes.

Thanks for reading!

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