Taking these precautions could greatly reduce your risk.
Identity theft is the fastest growing white-collar crime in the world. The Federal Trade Commission has stated that there are more than 9 million cases of identity theft per year in the United States alone. Even if you've been able to avoid any issues thus far, chances are that you know someone whose identity has been compromised.
Note from Karen: It's National Protect Your Identity Week, sponsored by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling and the Council of Better Business Bureaus. Here's some related reading that you'll find very informative.
If you take anything from this post, realize you can never be too safe with your personal information. You need to be on your toes, especially around your co-workers, friends and family. Although you likely won't be liable for any fraudulent charges and/or spending, it can takes months of consistent effort to clean up. Here are some ways you can avoid becoming a victim:
State advises that if you plan to move there, you should have a job lined up first.
The job market is so tight that the state now posts a caution on its Division of Employment Security Web site suggesting people not move to Alaska unless they already have work lined up. "We have a fair amount of people who think that Alaska is the promised land, and they have misconceptions maybe about what is up here. And they load up the family and head out on the Alaska highway, and we want to encourage them not to do that until they have something lined up before they get here," (regional job center manager Brad) Gillespie said.
Sounds like great advice. When we lived in Alaska nearly a decade ago, we got calls from acquaintances Outside who assumed that a pipeline was always under construction somewhere (they're not), that jobs were plentiful, and that if all else fails, you can live off the land.
Apparently the dream lives on.
Make sure to move automatic payments to new card.
When you’re a victim of identity theft, one of the first things you should do is cancel all the credit cards that have been compromised. If you have regular payments charged automatically to a card, don’t forget to change those payments to another card.
Forgetting to set up new automatic payments for a bill can have serious consequences, as my late partner and I learned. She was the victim of identity theft in 2003, when several of her cards were taken over by another person, who charged a lot of items and had the bills diverted to another address in the next county.
Falling prices mean Social Security recipients will get no cost-of-living increase next year.
Under the time-honored formula used to calculate Social Security payments, recipients will get no increase AT ALL next year -- for the first time since the automatic cost-of-living adjustment was adopted in 1975. Prices have actually gone down, you may or may not have noticed.
Social Security payments cannot, by law, decrease when the cost of living declines, but neither are they supposed to go up when there is no inflation. And, the Los Angeles Times notes, "The decline in prices means that seniors will be able to buy more with the dollars they're already receiving."
But President Obama and many in Congress want Social Security recipients to get an increase anyway -- in the form of a $250 bonus.
Is this fair or even reasonable?
Online high-end shopping sites can throw the sage shopper off his or her game.
I have a favorite, although rather obscure, Monty Python sketch. An older housewife type (a "pepperpot") sits on a park bench. Another approaches dragging a car engine on a cart, saying she's been shopping.
"Did you buy anything?" asks the first.
"A piston engine!"
"What d’you buy that for?"
"Oooh! It was a bargain."
It's not their most memorable bit. But it deftly sums up a way in which we can short-circuit our own thinking when we shop.
- Bing: Best of Monty Python
As I've written here several times, when we shop we are not creatures of cold calculation. We can't be. There are just too many choices at the mall and not enough time to find the one optimal allocation of our money over everything we could buy. Instead, we operate on a set of learned behaviors that approximate the optimal outcome. One of those is bargain hunting.
I sometimes feel ashamed that I can afford things that others can't.
Recently I shared a guest post from Leo Babauta of Zen Habits. His guide to minimalist money was a sort of overview of good financial skills, useful information for those in the first stage of personal finance. But some longtime GRS readers couldn’t relate to Leo's post.
Today's post goes in the opposite direction. It's a meditation for those in the third stage of personal finance (or beyond), and it's probably going to seem foreign to those who are still struggling to get debt under control.
The evolution of spending
Before I developed smart money skills, I spent without thinking. I accumulated debt because I had no self-control. I bought what I wanted, even when I couldn't afford it.
Candor the best option, blogger says.
This post comes from Trent Hamm at partner blog The Simple Dollar.
I received a heart-wrenching e-mail from a reader I'm going to call "Peggy."
This e-mail (which I edited to protect the family's privacy) was the most painful I've read since I started writing The Simple Dollar. I look at my almost 3-year-old son and I can't imagine having to explain to him in a few years why we have to move out of the house he's grown up in.
Here are a few excerpts from that e-mail:
Retirees cite fear that the public safety net won't last.
Although it's a questionable decision for many, almost half of 61-year-olds surveyed recently said they'll begin collecting Social Security when they reach 62, the earliest people can apply.
The survey by Fidelity Investments shows that surprising result -- as well as a widespread lack of understanding of how Social Security works. For instance, "56% do not know when they will be eligible for full Social Security benefits (age 66 for those born 1943-54)," Fidelity said. About a third wrongly think that all benefits are exempt from taxes.
Applying at age 62 locks you in at a lower benefit for life (with one exception we'll describe below.) Is it really worth settling for a lower standard of living just to increase the chances that you'll collect Social Security for a few extra years?
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ABOUT SMART SPENDING
Editor Bev O'Shea lives and works in the foothills of the Appalachians. A former copy editor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Orlando Sentinel, she joined MSN Money in 2007. She's a fan of sunsets, college football and free shipping, among other things.
Having worked as a writer, reporter and editor for more than 25 years, Editor Julie Tilsner is the sort of person who can't help but correct grammar in Facebook postings and on billboards. She's written for BusinessWeek, the Los Angeles Times, Parenting, Redbook, AOL and others. She lives in Los Angeles County with her family and loves to drink wine and practice yoga, although not generally at the same time.
A writer for MSN Money since January 2007, Donna Freedman won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. She also writes about smart money tactics for magazines and on her own site, Surviving and Thriving.
Mitch Lipka has been warning people about scams and shining light on questionable business practices for more than 20 years. Mitch, the consumer columnist for The Boston Globe, has also been a reporter and editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer, Consumer Reports, South Florida Sun-Sentinel and AOL. He won the 2010 New York Press Club award for best consumer reporting online and was honored in 2011 for his reporting on child product safety.
Marilyn Lewis is an award-winning writer with a passion for getting readers clear, straight information that helps them stay out of financial trouble. A former reporter for The San Jose Mercury News, she works from her home in Port Townsend, Wash. Contact her at MarilynLewis@Outlook.com.
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