Identity Theft and Scams
It’s one of the fastest growing crimes in the world. Identity theft. What would you do if your identity was stolen? What if you just lost your wallet or purse with your license and credit cards? This I can be a major inconvenience when you are in sticks and bricks but when you full-time RV, it could get even trickier. I am no security expert but I will give you some of my thoughts and what I personally do to try to protect and or prepare for identity theft or a lost wallet.
Different Types Of Scams
There are actually a few different types of identity theft. You have the one everyone is familiar with and that is when someone takes your identity and tries or even succeeds to open accounts or obtain loans. Do you have kids? Child identity theft can go unnoticed for years. Then before they even can become their own adult self, their name has already been tainted. What about people that use your social security number to file false tax returns? Another one that is growing of late is medical identity theft. That’s when someone uses your information to obtain medical care or fraudulently bill your insurance carrier. There are also “skimming” devices that are being placed on ATM machines and gas pumps. The last one I will mention is social media identity theft.
You Could Misplace Your Wallet
If you do something as easy as misplacing or losing your wallet or purse your life could change in an instant. You could be out on a hike, sightseeing, or just doing your everyday chores. Even worse, it does not even have to be your fault. You may have taken all the right steps and still be a victim. I worked for a large university for many years. At one point they inadvertently listed all the employees and students personal information on an open to the public website. It was not caught for about a month.
There Are Many Scams Out There
There are many different scams out there to be careful of also. There are some that have been around for years and new ones that pop up almost on a daily basis. Chris and I have been called by the “so-called” IRS stating that we are delinquent and must pay immediately to avoid jail time. One of my favorite scams is when the “so-called” windows PC technician calls and says I have a really bad virus on my computer. Not to worry, he’s there to help…lol. All he wants to do is get me to give him remote access to my computer. From there he will take care of everything..lol. The best part of that whole scam is that I don’t use PC’s, I have all Apple products..lol. Make sure you check out everything thoroughly. Don’t assume because someone says they are from somewhere that they actually are. Some scams are getting quite good. Do not open an e-mail or click on a link from someone you do not know. Delete the e-mail.
Just Click This Link
I also get tons of emails with links to click on from people I never heard of. Some could be harmless but most contain malware or viruses. Some of these emails look extremely legit, while others contain so many spelling errors they look like they are written by a 3rd grader. We can’t forget about the person that emails you that he has won the lottery in his country but needs your help to cash it in. I think you get the point.
Nothing Is 100%
There is no way to 100% prevent identity theft. The best thing you can do is take some steps to make it a little harder for someone or to help you recover if it happens to you. As I have said, I am no security expert but I do think it is important to familiarize yourself with the different types of identity theft types and what to do to help yourself from becoming a victim, so I am going to provide a link to a very good website. I urge you to familiarize yourself with identity theft and steps you can take and not just sit back and say, “this will never happen to me.” It can happen to anyone at any time. Here is the link. https://www.usa.gov/identity-theft
Are You At A Gas Station Right Now?
Just recently we were sitting back watching tv after hiking at one of the state parks here in Florida. All of a sudden, I received a text from my Chase account asking me if I was at a gas station trying to make a purchase. I replied no of course and the transaction was declined. I then called Chase customer service and found that even though that transaction was canceled there was one before it at a gas station that went through. Now even though I am not responsible for it, I still get pissed off. Now my account has to be canceled and new cards issued. Good thing we have backups.
Take Some Extra Steps
If you live in sticks and bricks you could just go to the local bank and do your banking or get money for your other needs while you wait for your new cards. In an RV it’s a little bit more involved. Our bank is nowhere near us so we rely on Atm’s. Although everyone should prepare, since we live full time in an RV, we take some extra steps. I should remind you these are just our ideas and what we feel works for us.
Everything Is Scanned
As I have mentioned in other posts, one of the first steps we took is to scan all our important papers, credit cards, documents, licenses, etc. We also scanned all our physical pictures to a cloud-based service. All new pictures we take get uploaded directly to a cloud service. We have set up credit cards, banks, and even magazines to be all internet based billing and statements. This way we could access any of our records from any computer, phone, or tablet if need be. All contact numbers have been recorded and stored in a cloud service. Should something ever happen, we have all our contact numbers at our fingertips?
Another thing I suggest is when you do go out, travel light. Don’t put every card you own in your wallet and head out. A drivers license, credit card, bank card, medical card, is all you need. Maybe throw a few dollars in a separate pocket. This is plenty. Leave everything else home, preferably hidden or in a safe. One good thing about being in a campground instead of boondocking in the middle of nowhere is after a little while everyone at the campground gets to know you. It’s kind of like being in a neighborhood watch community. It is also a good idea to have a few different credit cards. In our case, we had to wait for Chase to send new cards. They mailed it to our home address which is a mail service. We then had to have it forwarded to the campground we are at. This takes time. It was not that big of a deal because we have a few other cards. If we didn’t and needed a card for an emergency, we would have been out of luck.
Use Different Banks
Another thing we do is we bank with 2 different banking institutions. Now, we are not rich by any means, but sometimes during an identity theft investigation, your account can be frozen until everything is sorted out. Now what? We use one account as our main account and use the second as a backup. This way we can at least continue with our monthly obligations with the one account while everything gets sorted out with the other account.
Set Up Fraud Alerts
We also set up fraud alerts and notifications with all our accounts both bank and credit card companies. It can be a little annoying getting a text every time you charge something or go to the bank but think of the consequences if we didn’t have that Chase card set up for alerts. Who knows how much these people could have charged before they were stopped. I choose to be inconvenienced with some texts…lol
LifeLock Credit Monitoring
The last thing we did is we joined LifeLock credit monitoring services. According to their website, they monitor your information for any fraudulent activity. They also supposedly back you up with services to help if you are ever a victim of identity theft. I say supposedly only because I have never needed that part of the service and hopefully never will. I have been a member for quite a few years and have been pretty satisfied. I will say one thing. I have received a notice that my e-mail was being used in an underground chat and to change my password immediately. I have no idea what an underground chat is but I changed my password immediately…lol. Which is another good tip? You should definitely change your passwords periodically.
Bottom line is to be organized. Should something ever happen, if you set yourself up right you can certainly minimize the damage? Good old common sense still prevails. Watch when you’re at ATM machines and gas pumps. Look for things out of the ordinary. Watch for cameras set up over ATM machines. Check to see if the card readers are loose. If so, do not use that machine or pump. Move to another one. Have all your information handy so if you do lose your wallet or ID you have the numbers to call at your fingertips.
One thing I forgot to mention is computer safety. Everyone who RV’s has to rely on campground wifi or hot spots. Campground wifi is generally not password protected and even if they are, the password is generally not a strong one. A good virus protection and malware program is a must-have. I am no computer software expert so I recommend you research the programs that are available for your operating system. They range in price from free to expensive. Some of the free ones are pretty good so if money is an issue, at least put one of the free ones on. It is super important. You should definitely have something on your system.
Ad Another Layer Of Security
Another thing you could do to add a layer of security for your computer is to purchase a router and run your devices through it. You will be able to password protect your router making it more difficult to hack into your computer and other devices. We currently use a router and we also have an anti-virus program.
If any of you have any other tips you want to share or have any questions, leave a comment below.