Taz Bright helms this series. Taz is a father, speaker, long-time business owner and graduate of the school of hard-knocks. Taz uses his past business and personal finance experience to help steer others in a positive financial direction while, hopefully, avoiding the mistakes he’s made along the way. As a former 6-year victim of Identity Theft, Taz shares unique lessons learned while trying to regain his financial footing. Taz is a member of Toastmasters International, a martial artist, former bodyguard and a CrossFit athlete. As the owner of Bright Balance Ministries, Taz’s goal is to help as many people as possible reach long-term, solid financial stability.
In the previous installment of ‘Deadbeat’ Dad Chronicles I mentioned that putting child support payments in my ex-wife’s hand instead of going through the State’s child support office backfired big time. It was definitely not a frugal decision as it caused much grief in the form of interest added onto my “missed” payments.
To make matters worse, as happens in life, two events occurred that would affect me financially for a significant amount of time. I’ll address the first of the two right now – Identity Theft.
Many folks don’t understand the seriousness of this silent crime. The individual who pretended to be emptied my bank account, put his picture on my drivers license, wrote several hot checks, sold my social security number to eight other people and also got two jobs in my name in another state.
It’s important to note here that this thief didn’t use my credit except for the cash from the bank account and writing hot checks. I mention this because many people mistakenly believe that identity theft is all about one’s credit and credit score. Not so! Your credit is only about 20% of the problem.
Pretend you’re the identity thief. You steal someone’s drivers license and replace their photo with yours. You get pulled over for speeding, hand the officer your insurance and license. He does his job, you sign the ticket and drive off. So who actually “got” that ticket. Hint…not you.
The person whose name appears on the drivers license now has a ticket but has no clue. Let’s further imagine that this same scenario occurs several more times. Again and again you drive away scot-free while someone else has no clue they’re supposed to show up in court for all those tickets. Next, warrants are issued for Failure To Appear. But, again, you have nothing to worry about because none of those warrants are in your name.
Your next step is to move several states away and use that same identification and stolen social security card to land yourself two well-paying jobs. Meanwhile the victim of this theft, that’s me, is slowly dealing with the consequences.
First the bank account you drained without me knowing goes negative since I’m unknowingly writing checks I expect to clear without a problem. Next my car is repossessed. Why? Because the checks I wrote bounced! Then I am evicted, again, because the checks I wrote for rent all bounced! (Having to move back into my mother’s house was adding insult to injury.)
The point of all this is to let you see how important it is to guard your identity 24/7. There are five areas identity thieves can strike:
- Drivers license
- Social Security number
For anyone trying to live a frugal life, save for retirement, invest, put money aside for a child’s education, being the victim of identity theft can, and in my case did, cause many of those plans to be put off for many years. The financial struggle that comes as a result cannot be overstated.
A very disappointing aspect was the effect on child support payments. With no car I couldn’t get to work. With no drivers license or Social Security card I couldn’t prove who I was in order to find another job. Interest started piling up, the ex-wife got less and less friendly and my son started thinking his dad didn’t care about him because he wasn’t providing financially. (I’m not ashamed to say this is what caused this non crier to shed more than a few tears.)
Thankfully I was introduced to Legal Shield Inc. I made a frugal decision to sell my trench coat to pay for the membership. The top-rated law firm in Texas went to bat for me. I was amazed at the results.
The primary reason I am sharing my story with you is to alert you to the dangers of identity theft and the havoc it can wreak on your retirement planning; it is not to sell memberships in Legal Shield. However, if you would like the link to an informative video, please feel free to email me. There are potential benefits to ensuring a watch dog is in place, before your identity is compromised.
E.S. ‘Taz’ Bright can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: The content of this post has been reviewed and it has been determined that it is appropriate for discussion with regards to personal finance and retirement planning. However, no opinion is offered with regards to referenced organizations or any information communicated via external link(s).