My phone rang on a snowy, cold, late January day two years ago. John and I had been married for just over six months and, financially, our first year was kind of tough. I was living the military spouse life– you know, being overqualified, underemployed, and totally underpaid– while we were trying to merge our finances after a few crazy things had happened to them.
First, we had both lost our cars within a week of each other. They straight-up died as we were driving them. (I couldn’t blame our poor vehicles– they each were more than 10 years old and had, cumulatively, almost half-a-million miles on them.) We had to downsize and buy one new car. We had PCSed that fall, which always comes with fun, unanticipated out-of-pocket costs. My computer of five years had flown the surrender flag, so I needed a new one. And, of course, we were on the hook for our student loan debt every month.
Like I said, our first year of marriage was tight.
So when I got a phone call in January asking me if we had spent $800 on baby stuff in a Brooklyn Target, my stomach dropped through the floor.
No, we hadn’t. John and I hadn’t even been been in New York City together once in our entire relationship. And we didn’t, you know, have a baby.
I asked the customer service representative if they could tell how the person had tried to pay for the stuff.
“With a physical credit card,” he said.
But we hadn’t lost our credit cards and they hadn’t been stolen. It turns out that people can scam credit card numbers and then create new credit cards using sketch-ball websites… which meant that literally anyone who had ever come in contact with the numbers could have stolen them. Awesome.
I declined the payment– thank goodness our credit card company caught it first!– and cancelled our cards. And I got off the phone, shaking. Maybe it was an overreaction, but I don’t care.
It was the first time that I had ever had my identity stolen and I couldn’t stop thinking about what could happen next. After all– what information might whoever it was out there (you know, the big, scary boogeyman) have? Did they have access to other accounts? Did they know where we lived? What information was safe? Where could they have gotten the information? Were our credit scores safe? Were there warning signs we missed? What could we have done to avoid our credit card numbers being stolen? And of course, depending on the information they had or where they got it from, was it possible it could impact John’s career?
[Tweet “Did they know where we lived? Were our credit scores safe?” #milspouse]
Identity theft is a scary thing. While you’d like to believe that just one thing was hacked or stolen, you can’t ever really be sure until it manifests itself in some ugly, and potentially costly, way. It’s hard to be proactive against a faceless person– or group of people– who can be everywhere at once. It makes it tougher when it comes to all of the hacks and leaks that can happen to personal information.
When you think about the sensitive, personal information military families have stored away in other servers for all kinds of different programs and agencies, it’s a little unsettling. There are a ton of different ways that information can get out– from OPM breaches to hacked accounts to good-ol’-fashioned stolen CACs. When you add PCSing– which is where a lot of military families find their information especially vulnerable– deployments, separations, and a host of other events and issues, it can feel overwhelming to be constantly on watch. After all, you never really know where the threat is coming from next.
If you’re looking for a way to keep a lid on your identity, LifeLock has you covered. LifeLock helps protect your identity with the unique combination of detecting, alerting and restoring. They monitor over a trillion data points and will alert you through email and mobile devices* if they notice suspicious activity. Also, their services are backed up with a dedicated team of U.S. based specialists who are there to make the calls, file the paperwork, and take all the painstaking steps to help restore your identity if it ever is compromised. That’s not just how LifeLock works. It’s why it works!
You can try it for free for 30 days. If you choose to purchase, military families receive 15% off for the lifetime of the account and a free American flag. Interested? Find out more here and use the code WESALUTE3 to start your free trial.
Let me know in the comments: what tips do you have to make yourself and your family safer when it comes to identity theft?