Tips on Protecting Your ID Protect your old life as you build a new one. BY ERIN PLAZIAK
Don't let the move distract you from protecting your ID.
For newlyweds, the period after the wedding can be just as hectic as the period leading up to the big day. After the honeymoon has ended, newly-married couples often face the challenge of blending two lives into one, as a couple begins the process of moving in together, selecting a new location to live and making room for all those wedding presents. During this time, there’s a lot to consider and a great deal of confusion—and that can heighten the risk of a distinctly modern challenge—the possibility of an identity theft breach.
These days, identity theft is a very real threat and the fastest-growing crime in America. According to the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) latest statistics, more than 8 million Americans were victims of some sort of identity theft. And while improvements have been made in developing tools to fight this type of crime, identity thieves have also gotten trickier—and many are finding creative ways to "borrow" a person’s identity.
Major opportunities for identity theft arise as a couple is in the process of moving to a new location, officially changing names or having cards reissued. Those mountains of paper tossed in the trash and the flood of sensitive mail that may end up at the wrong address create opportunities for confusion and increase the risk that sensitive information may fall into the wrong hands. Fortunately, however, there are things that can be done to ensure that your new identity as a married couple doesn’t end up being a new identity for an unscrupulous individual.
To reduce the likelihood of being a victim of identity theft: * Be careful what you throw away. Trash is a prime target for identity thieves, so take the time to shred all paperwork containing sensitive information, including pre-approved credit offers. The most secure shredders are "cross cut" shredders, because they ensure that the documents cannot be reassembled. * Make the post office and all your friends aware of your new address. That can help to reduce the likelihood that mail will be inadvertently sent to your old location. * After the move, carefully review financial statements. For the next few months review for signs of unauthorized use, including your credit cards, bank statements and phone bills. Alert your creditors immediately, in the event that you notice a discrepancy. * Do a "check up" on your credit history once life is starting to return to normal. Securing this information is easy—simply visit www.annualcreditreport.com or call 877-322-8228. You’ll be able to get one free credit report each year from each of the three major credit bureaus.
To reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim of identity theft after marriage, there are other proactive actions that you can take. In recent years, a great deal of progress has been made in assisting victims in this area—for example, many credit card companies offer protection against identity theft. Ask your credit card agent or company representative if yours does.
In addition, a few insurance companies now offer identity theft resolution assistance as part of their standard auto or homeowners insurance, and some have even expanded this service to include proactive measures to guard against identity theft. This assistance can prove invaluable because it can help guide victims through the arduous process of reclaiming their good names. Some companies even offer this service for free, so it can pay to shop around for the best value.
Erin Plaziak is a director of product development at MetLife Auto & Home. Plaziak has more than 15 years experience in the insurance industry. MetLife Auto & Home is a brand of Metropolitan Property and Casualty Insurance Company and its affiliates, Warwick, RI.