True story: I was in a cafe today and I overheard a conversation between two customers and the barista.
The barista was talking about how she had found someone's wallet on a bus and had given the wallet to the bus driver in hopes that, as a person of authority, the bus driver would return the wallet to the rightful owner. Not incredibly interesting to this point, I went about my morning coffee order, but then their conversation caught my attention.
A few of the gentlemen in the cafe were explaining to her how she should have proceeded instead. They explained to her that as an alternative she could have looked up the person, and then returned it herself: they played through the scenario of thanks the person would have for her kind return of the untouched wallet, money in tact. Perhaps the rightful owner would give her a reward. If so, she could accept; if not, she would at least know the wallet made it back into the right hands safely.
Or perhaps a second option, based on one of the customers own experiences: He had found a wallet once with a friend. He was going to return it, but his friend suggested "No need to return it right away, lets charge up the card, then return it to the owner. The credit card company and insurance will absorb the cost, and we can get a bunch of good stuff. No harm to anyone...." He went on to tell that they made their way to an electronics store, charged it up and then happily returned the wallet.
"True Story", said the customer to the barista, "no one was hurt and my friend got a great stereo and the insurance on the credit card came to the rescue. Everyone's a winner."
~Ironically, this lead them to a discussion about integrity.
Was it a true story? Had he happily charged up someones card, bragging about this in a public cafe, justifying that no real person got hurt? I don't know. I will say, it caught my attention, and brings me to the topic of Identity Theft.
Identity Theft is when someone takes over your identity using your personal data such as your name, address, the number of your credit card or drivers license, with the intention of taking illegal advantage. In it's simplest form this could be someone stealing your credit card and using it as if they were you. However, more often these days, identity theft has far larger implications. Thieves are more sophisticated and now take your entire identity over, not just the credit card in your wallet. These thieves apply for loans, buy homes, acquire new credit cards all in your name. Some cases include people selling your properties or investments.
In all cases Identity Theft is serious and threatens the reputation and credit you have worked hard to build for yourself over years.
Resolving issues that come as a result of identity theft can cost you thousands of dollars, beyond the actual charges or debts incurred. Legal fees are often a huge part of the expense you will incur to regain your identity, as you may have to fight to restore your credit and your good name. In a world that revolves around credit the implications are serious.
Identity theft is prevalent in today's society. How can you protect yourself?
- First of all take a look at your credit report at least once a year. You can access your credit report for free by contacting Equifax and TransUnion (in Canada). Please contact your local bank if you are in the US or elsewhere and ask them how you can have access to your credit report. Aside from looking for signs of identity theft, you will also want to take a look and ensure that all information is accurate. You would be surprised how often I hear that there are mistakes in client's credit reports. It is worth looking into. It is your credit, you worked hard for it.
- Protect your mail, ensure that your mailbox is secure. Ensure any statements of account or sensitive information does not go into the trash unless you have shredded it.
- Be careful where you use your debit and credit cards. Many gas stations and small convenience stores have insiders swiping the cards while you think you are paying and later use the information to attack your account. Speak to your local bank about preventing this from happening and for additional tips. The best tip I have heard so far is always keep your eye on your bank or credit card, and swipe it yourself if possible. Banks have come up with a new chip technology to try and prevent this, however always remember as technology advances to prevent theft, thieves also advance their technology to continue their work.
- In the event that your wallet goes missing, ALWAYS report the incident to the police as soon as you notice the loss. Keep a handy list of all your cards and the contact numbers for all the issuing companies so that you can act quickly and advise them. Note that computer invasions happen over the internet, therefore a list on your computer is only as safe as your internet security.
- Insurance companies offering Identity Theft protection will often offer you a card registry list to help you out in cases like this as well. Providing an 800 number to help you. This is a great option.
The above info graphic is by Sam Franada and it illustrates a great picture of what is happening today.*
Often, you have done everything you can to protect yourself and yet, someone still manages to steal your identity. What can you do to protect yourself if all else fails?
Did you know many insurance companies offer Identity theft protection as part of a residential insurance policy or as an extra coverage for as little as $35 per year?
Many of the insurers today recognize the growing risks of identity theft and as part of many insurance packages on residential policies, insurers are including identity theft free of charge or for minimal fees. All of the insurers we deal with at Ogilvy offer this. Please take some time and protect yourself by calling your insurer or broker. Find out what is available and make sure you have this in place.
The barista at the coffee shop was so worried about the stories the gentlemen were telling her, she started to question herself as to whether she had done the right thing. What if the bus driver hadn't returned the wallet? What if the cards had fallen in the wrong hands?
I am still not sure if the story of the electronic purchases was true, but the fact that this story was told, joke or not, is telling of societal challenges that we face day to day.
Protect your identity so that when someone finds your wallet, your information, or anything else, and they do not have integrity like the barista, at least your insurer will stand behind you to fight your case, pay for legal fees, help retrieve your information and bring you back to where you rightfully deserve to be: with good credit and a good name.
You worked for it. You deserve it.
That's a true story.
*Snapshot of an infographic about Identity Fraud for KGBPeople can be viewed it in its entirety here.