I would bet the majority of singles have experienced the “regret date.” The regret date is the person you thought was one thing, and found out after numerous dates, was another. A person can pretend to be something or get away with hiding who they are for longer than one can imagine. The worst of all regret dates is the one where you are scammed, and people are becoming a statistic at alarming rates.
The fact is that identity thieves are getting smarter, and using technology to their advantage through avenues such as online dating. Beyond technology, an identity thief can steal from you as they are posing to be the new love interest in your life, taking advantage of you at your most vulnerable time.
Does that mean that you shouldn’t trust anyone at all? Does that mean you should just pretend that nothing like that could ever happen to you? Does that mean that you shouldn’t venture out and try avenues such as online dating? No to all of the above. What it does mean is that, with the latest identity theft threats, you have to be proactive and aware of your own personal security. Fortunately, a little common sense and awareness can go a long way. Consider the following tips for safer dating.
1. Get the right identity theft protection service.
Identity theft protection is a booming business. Many services claim to magically protect you from all avenues of identity theft. They act as if they can magically stop all identity theft, even if your name is Joe Smith or Betty Adams. Until someone can prove this is possible, just call me skeptical. In any of these services, I look for two critical elements:
Credit monitoring protection – This service monitors all three of your credit reports. If anyone tries to take credit out in your name, you are immediately notified. In my opinion, it is the first line of defense against most identity thefts.
Unlimited, free access to at least one of your credit reports – There are three agencies that each have a credit report on you. In the good old days, these protection services gave free access to all three. Those days are over! You are fortunate to get unlimited access to just one credit report. However, one is better than none. Even better is the site that will sell you a 3-in-1 credit report that shows all three at once. It’s good to check all three at least two or three times a year, to make sure everything looks okay.
Go a step further and sign up for a service that has all of the protection services that claim to monitor everything. As I said, someone needs to convince me these actually work. It doesn’t hurt to have them just in case they actually do. However, it is critical that they have at least the two crucial elements listed above.
2. Be vigilant about checking ALL of your accounts regularly.
It’s easy to get lazy with your finances. Of course, your laziness is what identity thieves depend upon. Start making it a point, at least once a week, to look at bank and credit card accounts. This is a good practice to make sure that everything is as it should be.
3. Consider a credit card over a debit card.
Okay, this is where you might actually draw the line, saying this is a little over the top. Just consider the facts:
- It is easier for thieves to get access to an account with a debit card than with a credit card.
- You could have unlimited loss if you don’t report a debit card theft in time. With a credit card, there are no time restrictions on reporting an unauthorized charge.
- Money stolen out of your bank account through a debit card can have steeper consequences than money illegally charged on a credit card.
- A debit card does nothing to build credit history.
I see no advantages, beyond convenience, to using a debit card. You have to decide if that convenience is worth the risk.
4. Be aware of your surroundings.
It’s easy to be careless when you are comfortable around someone. You could leave a purse or a wallet just sitting out in the open. You could leave mail or important papers sitting out. You could give personal information out over the phone, and be within hearing distance of someone. In the world of dating, you run a risk leaving a purse, wallet or computer bag sitting in a car. A new trend in crime begins with a thief bashing out a window and taking what is within sight. Remember, identity thieves are just looking for the times you are not paying attention.
5. Never give information to anyone who approaches you first.
This one piece of information will cut out a large percentage of identity theft risk. So many identity thefts occur simply by giving out information when asked. Never, under any circumstance, give out personal information when approached by someone. If someone approaches you through a phone call, an email, a knock on your door, etc. and asks for your personal information, you are probably at high risk for an identity theft. Professional companies don’t ask for information by approaching you with an email. They also don’t call you out of the blue, and they don’t show up at your door. Only give information when you make the initial contact, and you know that a legitimate business is on the other end.
With these tips, and just by being more aware, you will be on your way to protecting a valuable, one-of-a-kind commodity – your identity.