But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. –Matthew 24:43
Everywhere money goes, thieves follow. In recent history people began to depend on banks rather than burying their treasure, although there are still those who stash it in the mattress or bury it in the backyard. But banks weren’t a perfect solution. They were still robbed and banks failed.
Then the government guaranteed your funds under the FDIC. Generally, this covers deposits, checking and savings, money market deposit accounts, and certificates of deposit up to $250,000 per depositor, per insured bank, for each account. That covers me and then some, but only against bank failure. There are still those pesky thieves.
Over the years banks have made it more convenient for us to use our money electronically all over the world. The credit card allows access to money up front, and we pay after. Debit cards require payment at the moment we access the money.
Plastic is wonderfully convenient for those who control their spending and manage their money wisely. But thieves still lurk, only now they don’t have to break into our houses or banks. They can pull it out of the very air from under our noses. They don’t have to be in the neighborhood. I’ve had credit cards stolen by thieves in Germany and India as well as in a couple of distant states.
Here are some things we can do to protect our electronic money.
Guard Your SSN
The social security number is your identity. Never give it out over the phone to someone who contacts you. EVEN IF THEY SAY THEY’RE A GOVERNMENT AGENCY. Thieves are also known to lie.
Make sure your computer is protected and secure before typing in personal information of any kind. Even though my computer is protected, I never type in my SSN to the computer. This is a real problem during tax time. They want you to electronically file, and you can’t even get forms except by downloading them. I download the forms and fill out everything except the SSN, then print them out, write the number in, and mail the forms by snail mail. I don’t know how long I’ll get by doing that, but that’s what I’ll do as long as I can.
Why? Because anyone in the world can take your SSN and open a credit account in your name and number, and use it—a lot. Since you may never know this happens until you try to buy a house or car, it’s a good idea to check your credit score regularly. Creditreport.com and Credit Karma are a couple of the subscription companies. There are others, but take care. Some trick you into subscribing for a fee, and that may not be necessary.
Spread Your Money Around
Or don’t put all your eggs in one basket. This is especially important if you use debit cards regularly. Set up a separate bank account in a different bank or credit union just for purchases. Keep the balance fairly low, a thousand or so. This way, if your card is hacked, you’ll only lose up to that balance and your entire fortune won’t be in jeopardy.
Use Credit Cards for Store Purchases
If you don’t want to go to the trouble of setting up a separate checking account in a different bank, use the credit card for purchases. The thieves are stealing from the bank, not you, and while it is an annoyance to change card numbers, you won’t lose much money. There is a drawback, however. If you don’t pay off the credit card balance every month, you run the risk of going into debt. But if you’re disciplined, this is the best approach.
Change Those Passwords
It’s annoying to keep changing passwords, but that’s the price for the convenience of plastic. Change the password to your computer and your debit card. DO NOT USE PASSWORDS FOR CREDIT CARDS AT ALL. The only reason you’ll need it is for cash advances, and this you should never do if you budget wisely. The cost for cash advances on credit cards is enormous. Repeat after me, I will never use a credit card to withdraw money from the ATM.
Go inside the bank’s building to use your debit card or go to the window to make withdrawals. Don’t use those drive-thrus in isolated places. It’s a good idea not to make withdrawals except during regular banking hours. And please take care during vacations. Thieves know people are relaxed and casual on vacation and likely to let their guard down. Even on vacation, go to the bank or other inside, secure location.
Identity Theft Protection
Is identity theft protection necessary? I don’t use it, but if it gives you peace of mind, and it works in your budget, go for it. Lifelock certainly advertises more than any, but as with anything, shop around and read the reviews. Others are Metlifedefender and Idprotectionpro.
Something you should absolutely do is talk to your bank to find what it offers, usually for free. Some banks will send you a text message every time your card is used. If offered, sign up for it. If you get notice of a charge you didn’t make, you can immediately freeze the account.
Sign of the End?
When I considered all the difficulties modern international commerce places on us to protect our money, I couldn’t help but believe it is a sign of the end. It will soon be impossible to protect our identity unless it’s embedded on our person. World controlled money system? Mark of the Beast? Unless we’re prepared, it’ll come like a thief in the night. But for those of us ready to meet our Lord, does it really matter?