What is Your Identity Worth?
Taking charge of your financial life begins with knowing your net worth. Of course, the higher that value, the better off you are. The straight forward way of calculating your net worth is the sum of your assets minus the total of your liabilities but is that the whole picture? Even though this accounting net worth value is beneficial to plan successfully and build your financial future, it does not reflect the most significant asset of all, and that is you. On the regular, you pay your bills on time, you manage to keep your credit card debt within the recommended ratio to the total limit, and you earn a comfortable living. So what, someone might say? The reality is, you have built a strong credit history that is priceless because it defines you and only you, yet that is often taken for granted by many. You are your most valuable asset.
May I please speak to John Smith?
Although your name is most likely uncommon, you are equally susceptible to having your most important asset, your identity, damaged and destroyed. Every year around 8.9 million people become victims of identity theft. When your personal information is stolen and used without your consent, you can find yourself with drained bank accounts, racked up credit card bills for accounts you never opened, and you can even be served with medical charges on your insurance for treatments you never received.
How identity theft happens.
Let’s be honest, most of us think we are invincible. However, identity thieves are more creative than ever, figuring out new ways of getting their hands on your precious personal information. If you do not shred every piece of mail, bill, or statement that you throw away, you become an easy prey for the dumpster divers. Another common tactic used by these criminals is the change of address or stealing your mail directly. In addition, they can pose as someone who has a legitimate legal right to your information such as a landlord or a potential employer and open the door to stealing your identity that way. If you think about it, you should really be asking yourself how identity thieves are not able to easily get personal information about you.
What you can do to protect yourself.
There are several things you can incorporate in your routine to shield your most valuable asset. Make sure that you safeguard your trash by shredding all documents and protect your mail by only using secured mailboxes. Do not carry your social security card, PIN, and other passwords in your wallet. Opt in for paperless statements for your credit cards and other lines of credit and set activity online alerts for them. Check your credit report at least once a year to monitor inquiries and any new accounts opened. Finally, the only way that offers a constant peace of mind that your identity will not be harmed is still enrolling in a credit monitoring and identity theft service. The cost of this small investment cannot be compared to the value of you or to the possible painful headaches and monetary damages that it can prevent.