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Everyday Cheapskate: An ounce of prevention is cheaper than a pound of cure

If the terms Snowden, NSA and “top secret information” ring a bell, it’s possible that you follow the national news and understand the issues of privacy — both national and personal.

I can’t do much about the monitoring efforts. But if someone actually makes a move to steal my identity to do me harm? I can do something about that. And I would much rather choose prevention than face the daunting task of repair.

How can I prevent someone grabbing my Social Security number, using it to open a credit-card account and running that baby to the moon — before I know what’s happening? How can I prevent someone from financing a car in my name, using my identity — then crashing it and causing all kinds of damage and personal liability for me, before I can even figure out what on earth happened?

I can’t. I wish I could, but don’t have the resources, network or ability to track and monitor my personal identifying information to stop someone from stealing it. No individual does. That would be logistically impossible.

Let me tell you about Max, one of my staffers. Back when Max was 17, he got a tax refund from the IRS. What made that shocking is that Max didn’t have a job and hadn’t filed a tax return. He was an unemployed minor. An innocent teen. His dad and accountant were able to figure out that someone had stolen Max’s Social Security number, and used it to get a job. Of course, they reported this to the IRS and Social Security Administration and returned the check. But that wasn’t the end of it. Over the coming decade, hundreds of people have used Max’s identity to gain employment. Crazy, isn’t it? And the SS Admin cannot and will not do a thing about this.

Not long ago, Max got a call from LifeLock, the company he uses to monitor his identity. Seems that one of the hundreds of people using his SS number attempted to open a credit-card account. Wham! LifeLock’s Identity Guard and Trusted ID flew into action. Max picked up the phone only to learn that LifeLock was on the other end and that the bank that was about to issue that credit card! The LifeLock customer rep explained the situation and then stayed on the line for nearly 20 minutes while Max spoke with the bank, detailing and giving the information they needed to stop the theft and also nail the perpetrator.

I could go on and on about the horrors of identity theft — the way that thieves are now stealing and using children’s Social Security numbers; the way these thugs can so easily hack into bank accounts and clean them out before anyone is the wiser.

I hope that your Social Security number and your kids’ too, have not been stolen. Sadly, I don’t even have that assurance for myself. But I can promise you that I don’t worry about it because I have had LifeLock Ultimate protection for nearly ten years. I love the service and find it to be one of my most reasonable forms of insurance.

LifeLock Ultimate is not a free service. There is an annual premium for this protection. And I find it to be money well spent. Whether you opt for LifeLock or some other identity theft protection, make sure you’re getting preventive service, not simply a company that reports back to you once the deed is done. Use this link to get a nice discount that LifeLock is offering to our EC family.

Mary Hunt is founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com

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