The link below contains some good information about how ID thieves and criminal gangs are capitalizing on current economic conditions. As you know, we have always advised our friends and clients to guard the assets of their identity and credit as carefully as their more tangible assets. These assets are more valuable than ever before, please take a moment to review these points.
FRAUD AND IDENTITY THEFT ARE ON THE RISE – TAKE SIMPLE STEPS
When times are tough all types of fraud increase, not just the lawsuits that are typically the focus of these updates. In addition to the obvious financial exposure of having someone access your identity and accounts is the risk to your credit. ID theft can take years and thousands of dollars to fix. ID thieves are trolling nice neighborhoods like yours and stealing trash and mail from your curb and mailbox, as well as using more devious and intricate methods like fake notices that your anti-virus software has expired and you need to click to update. An excellent source of information on these issues can be found here: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/consumers/deter.html
Some basic tips:
Use a shredder for anything with an account number both at home and at your office. This includes things that you would typically put in your office trashcan. Would you let the person who empties the can at your desk have your checkbook?
Protect personal information of your employees and clients like it was your own – they will hold you responsible if that information is compromised. Make sure that such information is locked up, password protected and ideally traceable, i.e. who logged in and when if stored electronically.
Update your computer security software and make sure your anti-virus and spam ware is regularly updated and correctly functioning.
Be careful about the detail of information available on you online, especially in the age of business-social networking. If you are reading this we have probably had a discussion about distancing yourself from title to certain assets. I am continually amazed about the personal details about assets and family that people put on line.
Check your credit and the credit of your children regularly. ID thieves have started accessing the SS numbers of children and using them as clean slates then running up thousands or more of bad debt. In many cases the family is unaware that this has happened until years later or until the collection calls start coming.
PROTECT YOUR CREDIT – IT IS NOW MORE THAN EVER AMONG YOUR MOST VALUABLE ASSETS:
Good credit has always been important on both personal and business fronts, but it is now more important that ever. As credit markets have tightened even the wealthy are having trouble obtaining credit for every day issues like home and auto purchase or leasing. Banks are scared and have pulled in the reigns on lending to all but those who have sterling credit, “good” is no longer good enough.
They are also using late payments of any kind to move to the default interest rates permissible under various types on loan and consumer credit agreements as a way to generate fees and increase revenue internally. This could mean that your VISA ay 8.9% jumps to 29.99% APR if your spouse sends in the check late, or worse, if your course of business has been to pay certain credit lines down late to a friendly creditor, it could now put you into default or cause an acceleration.
We are also hearing that clients who have used revolving credit lines for years as part of their business model either for capitalization or to pay recurring expenses are suddenly finding that their credit lines have been terminated as is permissible in the fine print of most such agreements. This is despite the fact that the client has had no change in income or credit. Banks are simply deciding that they have too much exposure and are proactively limiting your ability to draw that money out. Solution? – If you have a credit line that you know you are going to need or cannot risk losing – draw the money out now and look at the interest cost like an insurance premium; you may not want to pay it but if you need the “insurance” of having that money available it will not be available at any cost, certainly not in any short term scenario.
There are services out there that we have referred friends and clients to with great results. For an investment of a few hundred dollars many negative or inaccurate items can be removed in a short period of time increasing your credit score by dozens of points.