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“Everyday Cheapskate”

Posted on Wednesday, March 30, 2016 at 10:28 am

Scared and learning the hard way

everyday cheapskate - mary huntSYNDICATED COLUMNIST

mary hunt

I recently received a heartbreaking letter from one of my readers, which resulted in the following email conversation. She gave me permission to share our conversation:

DEAR MARY: I have been a Debt-Proof Living member for longer than I can remember. I own every book that you have written. Sadly, I ignored your advice on how to prevent thieves from stealing debit card information.

We recently went on a cruise. Not wanting to use a credit card for our travel and vacation expenses, we put the money for our trip into our checking account. To my horror, five days prior to departure I discovered that someone had stolen our debit card numbers and drained every last cent. We couldn’t even buy groceries, let alone pay for the cruise. When will I learn? — Learning the Hard Way

DEAR LTHW: Oh, I am so sorry. What is your bank? Have you reported this breach? Please don’t beat yourself up. We all learn from our mistakes, and I’m sure you won’t have to learn this a second time.

DEAR MARY: Our bank is Regions Bank in North Fort Myers, Florida. The attendant that we reported to advised us to file a police report, which we did. She also gave me information on what to do when your identity is stolen. Knowing that we were almost done with cruise, she jumped through hoops to see that the money was replaced in our account. You are absolutely right: that this is one lesson I won’t have to learn twice. — LTHW

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DEAR LTHW: Knowing what to do if your identity is stolen is useful, but I hope you will look into identity theft protection, such as LifeLock.

DEAR MARY: I recently tied this to an event that happened a couple years ago. Someone filed a tax return in my husband’s name. Consequently, our tax return wasn’t accepted. We got that mess straightened out, but it took a lot of work.

I wonder if there is a link between these episodes. In fact, we just received a notice from our mortgage company acknowledging our change of address. But we haven’t changed our address. This time I am not caught off guard; it’s clear that someone changed our address listed with our mortgage company so they can receive our statements with account information. They have everything they need to apply for a second mortgage on our home.

I am really frightened. What can we do to stop this? How do we keep our information totally private and make sure it doesn’t happen again? — LTHW

DEAR LTHW: Unless you live on another planet, it is pretty impossible to keep all of your information completely private. That’s just the nature of technology these days. However, you can take steps to ensure that no one can impersonate you to open new credit accounts, empty your bank accounts or steal tax refunds. Don’t let them ride on your good name and reputation.

I highly recommend that you sign up for a LifeLock Ultimate Plus membership, immediately. This is the only company I know that actively monitors, routinely detects and stops fraudulent activity to restore your good name. That’s quite a promise. I’ve witnessed another company fulfill its promises like LifeLock does. They even rescued my staffer, Max.

I hope this advice restores your peace of mind as it has for me, my family, and my staff.