It’s time again to deviate a bit from the de facto stock market speak du jour. I want to discuss Identity Theft. I know, it won’t happen to you. We all tend to think that way. BUT it can and COULD happen even to you. Identity theft is something I’ve been increasingly concerned about ever since I noticed multiple charges on my credit card from companies I have never done business with. This came just a few weeks after my brother had checks stolen from his mailbox. How the thieves were able to retrieve my credit card info I will probaby never know, but it’s unnerving to say the least. What other info do they have? I was forced to close the account which was a minor headache. Identity theft is no minor headache. It can ruin lives, but the good news is that the growing problem (now 10 million identity theft victims a year!) has created some solutions.
Government is starting to step in and force the credit bureaus to offer a credit freeze. According this article "Consumers can have a sigh of relief as of November 1st, 2007. All three credit bureaus gave into security freeze options for all states, including the 11 states without laws, before they all forced it by mandatory laws.
Now that the security freeze is available to everyone, here is how it works: Once a security freeze is desired a consumer needs to write a letter to each credit bureau and pay a fee of about $10 for each bureau. Once the freeze is in place, it prevents the big three credit bureaus from releasing information without the consent of the consumer.
A consumer can allow access to their credit report to either a specific business or organization, or they can choose a specific amount of time they want their credit report to be available without authorization. When a consumer freezes their credit report they are given a unique PIN that is used to lift the security freeze. Lifting a security freeze is also referred to as thawing your credit report."
Writing and paying each credit bureau for the freeze seems like a hassle to me.
Perhaps the better solution is going with a company like LifeLock which automates the process of protecting your identity, not to mention putting a halt to all that junk mail. WallStrip founder Howard Lindzon is an investor and I first read about this service at his blog. You can use the discount code "wallstrip" for a small discount. I personally have signed up and the $100 bucks a year is a small price to pay knowing I’ll never have to worry about identity theft again.
The LifeLock service does the following:
1. Insures you up to 1 million dollars in case of identity theft
2. Sets fraud alerts so that you are contacted when new lines of credit are requested
3. Provides credit reports
4. Removes your name from junk mail lists (worth the cost right there!) in addition to pre-approved credit card offers
5. 24 hour support
There are a couple other companies out there offering similar services but LifeLock appears to the best of the bunch. I highly recommend checking them out and protecting your identity.
Credit Card Rental Car Insurance
One thing I’d like to do more of here at the blog is expand a bit beyond profit opportunities in the stock market and write a bit more about finance and money saving tips many of which I come across in my own reading or experiences. After all, being a good self investor and managing your finances well go hand in hand and both help you to achieve the end result, which is a life void of financial constraints and the freedom to live where you want and do as you choose. During my recent trip to the east coast for a wedding, my girlfriend and I needed a rental car for a small road trip we had planned to take up into Massuchusetts, New Hampshire & Maine. Now I consider myself a good driver (don’t we all?) and have NEVER been in accident … ahem, that was my fault. So, when the agent asked if I’d like the rental car insurance at nearly $30/day of course I quickly declined. Days later I was pulling out of a small parking lot and caught the edge of the truck behind me .. go figure! Of all the times … It was sizable dent in my left bumber, no damage to the other guy who happened to have one of the heavy duty, solid steel bumpers on an old chevy pickup. Sowhat do I do now? I’m sure I was in the same boat as many not knowing what do other than contact my insurance company and get an estimate to get the thing fixed. The hope of getting it fixed myself for a couple hundred bucks quickly vanished when the repair shop came back with an estimate of $900 to replace the bumper. Yowza! So much for avoiding the insurance company and the rental company. Even with a $500 deductible, a claim would probably have to filed, not to mention my insurance rates go up. It’s some coverage but I’m still out a decent chunk of change. Aha!… but there is another option to me. After discussing the situation with the insurance company, the agent recommends to me that I contact my credit card company which happens to be Visa. Apparently, unbeknownst to me, many people have rental car insurance through their credit card companies. I’m not sure what the requirements are for this coverage but if you’re traveling, contact your credit card company and find out what your coverage is. What Visa does for me is act as secondary coverage. In other words, if my insurance company would cover this incident (which they will), then Visa will pay me the deductible PLUS any additional charges from the rental car company for loss of use. Going this route, the only charges I’m responsible for is the increase in my insurance rate for filing the claim. It should be noted that if I don’t file a claim with the insurance, Visa still only covers up to what the deductible would have been, in this case $500. So, if the damage is $500 or less of course I won’t file a claim and will just have Visa pick up the tab. If more, I have to factor in what the increased insurance rate will be and decide if filing a claim makes sense. If I didn’t have a good auto insurance policy and there was no coverage Visa would have acted as primary coverage and they would have picked up the entire tab. Either way, having this credit card coverage is a fantastic perk that I didn’t know about previously. Hopefully, this is a heads up to a few others out there. Bottom line: Find out what your coverage is in a rental car through both your insurance company and your credit card company, DECLINE the rental car insurance from the rental agency and ALWAYS pay for the car with a credit card that offers coverage.