They are crime victims. They have been denied insurance, denied credit, become ill
from stress, lost jobs, been arrested, and forced into bankruptcy. They say the
same things other crime victims say: “I never thought it would happen to me.”
“It has ruined my life.” and “I don’t know how it could
have happened.” The number of victims has doubled every year, for the
last five years. The cost to individuals and businesses last year alone was $53
billion. Six states still have no laws on the books in reference to this crime.
Sadly, these consumers have fallen victim to a type of crime that businesses, government
agencies, and even law enforcement don’t yet fully understand. Meanwhile,
the vast-majority have no specifics on how they became victims. Unless you learn
your options and take precautions it could happen to you. The crime is called
Identity Theft, and YOU are at risk.
Thankfully, Credit Advisors Foundation can help! We can assist you to set up a privacy
shield making use of the superior services offered through your debt management
program. CAF can also show you needed areas of improvement in your current home
First, how do the thieves gain access to the information they need to take over
your identity? They will do the expected: steal your wallet or purse, or break into
your home. They will also attempt the unexpected, like go through your garbage,
pretend to be part of a government agency or the utilities and ask for the information.
Just like you, thieves shop by mail or the internet. The thieves have been known
to steal mail from your mailbox. (Is that why you never got that creditor statement?)
They will go through the dumpsters at businesses for ‘useful’ information.
(Always know the security practices of a business that you share vital personal
information with: do they shred all sensitive information like applications and
bank card receipts like CAF or just throw them in the dumpster? Who, including their
employees, as access to your vital information in their possession?)
What will identity thieves do with your information once they get it? They pretend
to be you. They apply for credit cards, apartments, auto loans, even mortgages.
They open phone or wireless service, open bank accounts and write bad checks. Create
counterfeit checks or debit cards and use them. And when these activities are interrupted
by law enforcement they give your name. Identity thieves will even file bankruptcy
in your name to avoid paying debts or to delay evictions.
What can you do to protect yourself? Create a system and secure your information
and financial records in your home. Before you throw it out, shred sensitive material.
(See the article on page two.) Guard your mail. Bring your mail in as quickly as
possible, especially if you have an unlocked mailbox like most of us. If you are
traveling and will be unable to pick up your mail, call the U.S. Postal Service
and have a postal hold placed on your delivery until you return. (The number to
call: 1-800-275-8777) When sending mail, drop it in a post office collection box
or at your local post office. Unless you have initiated the contact or are sure
who you are dealing with, don’t give out personal information on the phone.
Use the same precautions on the internet.
Stay alert. If your bills don’t arrive according to your billing cycles contact
your creditor. Thieves have accessed accounts before and changed the billing address
to hide their activities. Be cautious of promotions. Identity thieves also use phony
promotions to scam information from you.
Review your credit report on an annual basis. At CAF we do this for every client
as part of our basic service. The talented, knowledgeable folks at CAF review each
report for you, comparing the information you’ve given to the report itself.
The CAF counselors contact clients promptly if there are differences between the
two and discuss what options are available to head off any problems. Worse case
scenario, the CAF counselors will share tactics to use to confirm and report identity
“Don’t carry your social security card; leave it in a secured place.”
advises the FTC. Give out social security numbers only when absolutely necessary.
Question how the information will be used, why it is needed, and what will happen
if you do not give the information. Can you choose to keep it confidential?
If, like so many consumers, you use a computer at home protecting your personal
information is important. The FTC recommends using a firewall to stop internet “invaders”,
keeping your virus protection updated, and don’t download files sent to you
by strangers. If you must store financial information on your computer use a password.
Again, the FTC recommends, “a combination of letter (upper and lower case),
numbers and symbols.” Avoid saving your password into automatic log-in features
and always log off if you leave your computer unattended.
In our society fighting crime and protecting yourself from criminals has changed.
But the consequences of ignoring these issues could effect you for years to come.
Be smart, use caution, and get as much information as you can to protect you, your
family, and your good name. To contact our counselors for information call
If you suspect identity theft, report the fraud to the following organizations:
The three national consumer reporting agencies. Ask all three (Equifax, Experian,
and TransUnion) to mark your credit report with a “fraud alert” designation,
and to send a copy of your file.
Each creditor granting unauthorized credit or services. Contact the fraud department
specifically and find out what documentation (FTC affidavit and/or police report)
they will need for resolution.
Your local police department. Ask for a copy of the report or at least the report
number to forward to creditors and credit reporting agencies.
To reach the FTC for more information: FTC’s Identity Theft Hotline: toll-free
1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338) TDD 202-326-2502 Mail: Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal
Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington D.C. 20580 Internet: www.consumer.gov/idtheft.
The consequences of ignoring identity theft issues could effect you for years to
A reporter once asked Albert Einstein what invention had the most influence and
would continue to have the most influence on civilization and society. Mr. Einstein,
who had so many astounding thoughts and ideas in his life-time, stated the most
powerful invention was the pencil and paper. Those in “the know”
once told us with the advent of computers and technology we would become a paperless
society. Reality has shown that most offices are producing 80% more paperwork than
in the past. At CAF, we know how intimidating it can be to manage or organize all
this paperwork, especially your financial records. According to organizational groups
it doesn’t really matter what system you use as long as you have one and use
To avoid identity theft shred financial documents before discarding them. How long
should you keep paperwork before sending it to the shredder?
Here are some guidelines:
Monthly bills (utility and credit cards): until you receive the next statement.
Check that your payment was received and correctly credited to the account. Every
quarter send your credit card statements to CAF for monitoring.
Pay stubs: until tax time.
Bank and investment statements: until tax time.
Insurance policies: as long as they’re in effect.
Real estate records: as long as you own the property.
Tax records: at least six years.
By organizing your financial records it will be easier to keep track of your financial
situation and be prepared at tax time.
The Price is Relative Value - the object of this game is to teach children
(and maybe some of us adults, too) about relative value. You’ll need: pictures
of products from magazines or newspapers, pencils, paper and a referee.
How to play: the referee holds up a picture and players guess the price in
terms of relative value. In other words, how many weeks of allowance, or special
jobs, (for example: baby sitting, mowing lawns, pet sitting and so on) would it
take to pay for the item.
How to win: the closest to the cost, without going over scores a point. After
all pictures played the person with the most points wins.
“If a man empties his purse into his head, no one can take it from him. An
investment in knowledge always pays the highest return.” Ben Franklin
“A goal is never reached by what you’re going to do, but rather by what you
are doing right now.” Unknown
“It’s a little like wrestling a gorilla. You don’t quit when you’re
tired - you quit when the gorilla is tired.” Robert Strauss
“Behold the turtle. He makes progress only when he sticks his neck out.”
James B Conant
“You may be on the right track, but if you just sit there you’ll get run over.”
Paul H. Dunn
“Success is not forever, and failure is never final.” Don Shula
At less than a dollar per serving, Skillet Chicken and Chive Dumplings provides
filling comfort food at low cost. To stretch the meal, double the dumpling recipe.
Season the chicken with salt and pepper. In a large, deep skillet with a lid, heat
the butter. Cook the chicken over medium-high heat until golden, about 8 minutes
Remove chicken to a plate. Add the carrots and celery to the skillet. Reduce the
heat to medium and cook, about 5 minutes stirring often, until the vegetables are
Return the chicken to the pan, add the broth and 1 Tbsp. of the chopped herbs. Bring
to a simmer.
In a mixing bowl, stir together the baking mix, milk, remaining 1 Tbsp. of mixed
herbs and 2 Tbsp. of chives.
Continue stirring until a soft dough forms. Drop the dough by heaping teaspoons
on to the simmering stew. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer 15 to
17 minutes, until the dumplings are cooked through and puffy.
Gently stir in the remaining 1/4 cup of chives. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Makes four generous servings.