(Coming Next Issue: Dangers If You DO Use a Computer)
By Ron Dorner
Did you know that even those who do things the “old-fashioned way” face some serious financial dangers?
In Matthew 10:16 Jesus described those disciples whom He sent out with the gospel message as being among wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing. The world you and I live in today is much the same. It is important for us as believers to understand the changing world around us.
Financial danger comes whenever our personal information, such as date of birth and social security number, are not protected. These two pieces of information can give an unscrupulous person the opportunity to wreck your life.
You don’t have to know anything about computers to have someone steal your identity, run up large charges on your good credit, or commit crimes in your name. That is a frightening prospect, and we must learn how to avoid these problems.
Don’t be among the millions each year who are shocked to learn that their identity or credit has been ruined. This is a crime you generally know nothing about until it is too late. If you are a victim, it will cost you thousands of dollars and months of time to get back to normal.
Here are a few of the ways dishonest people can get your information:
– Stealing your purse or wallet
– Stealing your mail
– Searching your trash
– Obtaining your credit reports
– Getting your personal records (employment, medical, etc.)
– Taking information from your home
– Finding your information on the Internet
– Buying data from insiders.
It is important to keep personal information as private as possible. Do not keep “important papers” with vital information at home in a desk drawer! At least hide them in a fireproof container. It would be much better to keep them in a bank safe deposit box. Shred all papers you no longer need.
Protect social security numbers. Keep children’s social security numbers secure because thieves like to steal them and use a new identity to establish credit and run up large debts. Do not carry your social security card with you.
If you are on Medicare, do not carry your Medicare card with you except when needed because it has your social security number on it. Give out your social security number only if absolutely necessary. Ask whether an alternate number can be used.
There are many ways to steal credit card numbers. Treat your cards like cash and use them carefully. Check every credit card statement for misuse and take advantage of the law that allows you to get a free copy of your credit report each year from all three major credit bureaus.
Check writing is also subject to new risks. If thieves can get one of your checks, blank or written, they can write a check for any amount they desire. Reconcile your checking account every month and report to the bank any suspicious activity on your account.
Unfortunately, even though you may not have moved into the computer age, you are still vulnerable to many of the deceptive practices used to steal your money or your identity. If you have elderly parents, discuss some of these things with them to keep them from becoming a victim. Now is the time to take precautions and learn how not to be a victim of these crimes.
Should you become a victim of identity theft or credit card fraud, it is important that you report it correctly. File a police report, notify all three major credit bureaus and report it to the Federal Trade Commission. A great source of information is available by contacting the Federal Trade Commission. The phone number is (877) 382-4357 and their website is www.ftc.gov.
Ronald Dorner is director of Biblical Money Management. BMM has been helping believers handle their finances and estate planning biblically since 1984. Online counseling is available at www.BiblicalMoneyManagement.com.