‘Deadbeat’ Dad Chronicles: Protect Your Identity!

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.

Safeguard Your IDMany 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
  • Credit
  • Social Security number
  • Criminal
  • Medical

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.

Financial Security ThreatenedA 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 brightvision413@gmail.com

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).

Blogger-in-Chief here at RetirementSavvy and author of Sin City Greed, Cream City Hustle and RENDEZVOUS WITH RETIREMENT: A Guide to Getting Fiscally Fit.

12 Comments

  1. OMG! So…doesn’t putting a freeze on your credit help at least some of these situations? How can we protect our bank accounts from getting wiped out? I know mint.com is useful for self monitoring.

    • Without ever being a victim, canceling credit cards and freezing accounts strikes me as a good first step with regards to negating the impacts to credit brought about by identity theft. Undoing the damage caused to other areas (e.g. drivers license, social security, etc.) might prove a little trickier and time consuming.

      • Smh…. Well, at least healthcare is becoming more “pro-active” and much less reactive than in the past. I think financially we can be only so pro-active financially (as you said, time-consuming), and then something like Taz’s situation comes about to derail an otherwise responsible consumer. So glad he has good help on his side afterward.
        But I am hoping we can figure out how to monitor these other vulnerable items all in one place, to avoid the stress, loss, and long recovery of getting back on track that occurs after criminal activity strikes (another business opportunity?!).

        • “…another business opportunity?!” You may be on to something, my friend. However, my guess is that there is already a service out there that maintains your credit card information, drivers license number, Social Security number, etc. and as soon as you believe your identity has been compromised, they take action to shut down accounts, etc.

        • A quick search led to Lifelock, which appears to cover some of these bases. My guess is that there are multiple similar services out there. The question becomes, how much does such a service cost and is it worth it considering the probability of being a victim of identity theft (and its potential damage)?

        • Char, putting a freeze on your credit helps against future attacks but the one who stole my identify did most of his damage within the first two to three weeks. That’s the thing about Identify Theft: It’s worse than people think & harder to fix than most realize.

          • “…harder to fix than most realize.” I have heard that sentiment expressed by others that have been victims.

            • James most people don’t realize that fixing Identity Theft problems require over 1500 consecutive hours and that’s a low end estimate. For those who love math 1500 hours is 62.5 days. Who has that many days they can not only take off work but be up every single hour of those days in order to fully address the problems? Nobody. That’s why I market the membership I’ve spoken of. It’s essential to have an attorney and licensed investigator (included in the Legal Plan) to go to work for you while you get back to your job, family, etc.

        • Medical Identity Theft is actually the fastest growing form of Identity Theft. Someone can go to a hostital, get treatments in your name, take an HIV test in your name, obviously get a bill from the hospital in your name, etc. This affects your credit and also your ability to quilify for some medical coverage.

          The plan I market helps to “avoid the stress, loss, and long recovery of getting back on track that occurs after criminal activity strikes”. It’s exactly why I am proud to market it to individuals who see the value as you do.
          Contact me if you want to put that coverage in place.

          I hope to see more of your comments in the future.

  2. That whole situation sounds like a serious bummer , kudos on moving onward and upward

    • Thanks Brad B. It’s been tough getting through the after-effects but living frugally really has helped me get through a lot of the financial troubles.

      • There is no doubt that adopting frugal practices can help an individual, not only through a difficult period, but in achieving long-term fiscal fitness. Also, one basic tenet of personal finance is pretty straight forward. At the end of the day, the two basic components of turning a financial ship around are increasing income and reducing expenses.

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