It doesn’t matter if you own a business or not. If you have a bank account, a credit line or credit cards this applies to you. You need to make a habit of monitoring activity on these accounts on a regular basis. It is absolutely critical if you want to avoid the mental exhaustion and frustration that comes with identity theft. Identity theft is the number one crime in North America.

If you haven’t been a victim of identity theft I assure you, your time is likely coming. Even if you have taken all precautions it can still happen. I learned that the hard way this past month. I was fortunate, as I make a regular practice of checking my accounts on a weekly basis. This includes checking my bank account daily, my credit cards weekly and my other accounts such as my cell phone bill on a biweekly or monthly level. Here’s my story that almost cost me $6,000. And of all things, I am still to this day unsure how it happened.

The Sim chip in one of our company cell phones was damaged. I went to one of the Rogers kiosks to get it replaced. The girl behind the counter asked the standard information. What is your phone number then what is your name? After I gave her my phone number and name she then asked for my identification and advised me that I was no longer on the account. Someone had gone into a Rogers store and convinced them that they were to be added as the new owner and person in charge on the account, but the billing was still sent to me and it was my responsibility to pay it. However they did it, it was my lucky day that it only happened 4 days prior to me finding out. The thief had changed all the names, added 2 new phone numbers, had upgraded all my company phones, and had purchased a few new iPhones. My total bill would have been $5,460 with the upgrades, cancellations and activation fees.

The criminal made a payment of $600 to the account, I’m sure to throw me off, so I wouldn’t notice the purchases on the account. I managed to sort it out with the fraud department at Rogers and we came up with a few additional security features on the account. As much as technology is allowing us to keep in touch on a regular basis and to transfer funds easily online and over the phone, it is your responsibility to regularly check to see if anyone has compromised access to your accounts. I highly suggest you make a habit of doing this in your daily routine and weekly routine to save yourself a lot of aggravation. I keep track of all my bank accounts, my credit lines and my credit cards through a program called “MINT” on my smart phone. If you search your app store, it is a free program and is absolutely fantastic. It will search all your bank accounts, credit lines and credit cards and give you a summary of your cash flow and any activity-taking place immediately across the board.

It comes with a passcode so you can enter a number to get access to your information. It allows me to keep on top of all my accounts and instantly see if there is anything that is out of the norm.It also helps you keep better tabs on what you’re spending your money on. Also make a habit of changing your passwords on a monthly, quarterly and yearly basis. Don’t use passwords that have your name, address or phone number, or have the names of your family members (i.e. Daughter, son, wife, etc.). If you’re on Facebook, you might have given away their name and it’s easily done. I suggest the following: Use an upper case letter, min 2 numbers and make it more than 8 characters long. After this last recession I believe we all could learn how to better manage our credit lines and our money. It’s a hackers dream to those that get lazy with their passwords. In summary…Watch your Accounts, Money and Credit.

By Adam Oldfield

Providing a Fresh Perspective for Burlington and Hamilton.

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