Snowbirds: Leave no IDs behind
Here are 5 steps retirees can take to protect against identity theft when they're spending the winter in a warmer place.
This post comes from Identity Theft 911 and Credit.com.
Despite this, thieves ransacked the retiree's home and stole, among other items, his late wife's Social Security card, driver's license and checkbook, which he kept in a desk drawer.
"I'm a great saver," said Barnhill, 79, whose wife had kept the house in meticulous order. "I had stuff I didn't know I had."
Barnhill, a former parole officer and Green Beret, knew well enough to have relatives call the police, then change the locks to his house and cars, and contact his insurance company. But his greatest concern was for the safety of his identity and credit -- as well as that of his late wife.
"I was really worried because I didn't know how many checks were out there," he said. The process to safeguard their identities and credit appeared daunting -- involving phone calls, letters, notarized copies of death certificates. "It was very stressful and time-consuming. My daughter and I put in hours to figure everything out."
Because a Social Security number -- along with other identifying information -- can be used to obtain credit, Barnhill had to act fast to prevent fraud by taking these steps:
- Placing a fraud alert on his and her credit files.
- Sending letters, along with copies of his wife's death certificate, to all three major credit bureaus.
- Ordering a ChexSystems report to look for signs of check fraud.
So, for snowbirds like Barnhill who travel to warmer climates, here are some tips to help keep the bad guys away:
- Make your home look lived in. Put mail on "postal hold" and stop newspapers while you're gone or ask a neighbor to pick them up in a timely fashion. Don't forget to have your yard maintained and use timers on your lights.
- Lock it up. Secure doors and drawers. Store paper files such as bank or credit card statements and earnings statements behind locked drawers. Keep important documents such as passports, Social Security cards and birth certificates in a safe deposit box.
- Shred it. Buy a quality crosscut shredder and shred everything with your name and address, such as statements and invoices and preapproved credit offers.
- Check your credit reports. Review your credit reports from the three major reporting agencies -- TransUnion, Experian and Equifax -- twice a year. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com, the government-mandated source for free credit reports (you get free access to your reports from each agency once a year; you'll likely need to pay to obtain your reports more frequently).
- Tell your banks and credit card companies about your travel plans. Provide them with your cellphone number in case they notice any unusual charges.
More from Credit.com and MSN Money:
- 3 times it's crucial to monitor your credit
- How to spot fraud on your credit reports
- 5 stupid things you're doing to ruin your credit
- 6 ways to ruin your retirement
- Your car is wrecking your retirement
- How to spot fraud on credit reports
Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.
Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.
ABOUT SMART SPENDING
LATEST BLOG POSTS
Occupy Wall Street bought and forgave the student loan debt of more than 2,700 Everest College students.
VIDEO ON MSN MONEY
BLOGS WE LIKE
MUST-SEE ON MSN
- Video: Easy DIY smoked meats at home
A charcuterie master shares his process for cold-smoking meat at home.
- Jetpacks about to go mainstream
- Weird things covered by home insurance
- Bing: 70 percent of adults report 'digital eye strain'