SmartMoney Podcast: 'Is Identification Theft Safety Price It?'


Sean Pyles: Welcome to the NerdWallet SmartMoney podcast, the place we reply your private finance questions and enable you really feel just a little smarter about what you do along with your cash. I'm your host, Sean Pyles.

Liz Weston: And I'm your different host, Liz Weston. As all the time, you should definitely ship us your cash questions. Name or textual content us on the nerd hotline at 901-730-6373, that's 901-730-NERD, or e mail us at [email protected]

Sean: And when you're at it, please price, evaluation and subscribe wherever you’re getting this podcast.

Liz: This episode we're speaking about whether or not you're actually an identification theft goal and what you are able to do about it if you’re. First although, Sean and I are going to dive into our “This Week In Your Cash" section, which is all about summer time journey plans this time round.

Sean: Or perhaps the dearth of summer time journey plans this 12 months. I wished to speak about this although, as a result of now that we're on the opposite facet of Memorial Day, that is usually once we'd begin to set our itineraries, pack our baggage, and pull out our journey bank cards to take advantage of our miles and factors as we jet off to our holidays. And that's simply not as possible because it was. And with that, our spending habits and bank cards of selection have modified, or they’ve for me not less than. In order that brings me to my first query for you, Liz. I'm questioning how this complete international pandemic factor has affected your plans for the summer time.

Liz: Properly, just about torpedoed them utterly.

Sean: Understandably.

Liz: Yeah I don’t suppose I’m the one individual that has this situation. So my daughter and I had been going to go do some faculty excursions, and that clearly is off the desk. The universities are doing lots of digital visits so as to see the campus and speak to individuals. In order that's good. It's not as identical as truly getting there, although, and I'm actually type of upset about that. After which my husband was speculated to be instructing some workshops in Europe and we had been going to tag alongside, and clearly that's all down the tubes as properly. Yeah It's type of a pleasant little perk of having the ability to tag together with him, however you understand, that's the best way issues are. Lots of people had lots of disappointments this summer time. So we're not the one ones. How about you?

Sean: Properly, I had a few plans myself. First, I used to be going to fly my twin sister out to see me in Portland for our birthday, which is developing in mid-June. Yeah I've been actually desirous to get her out right here for some time and we had every thing set after which every thing type of fell aside. After which I used to be additionally planning a pilgrimage to Dollywood with two of my greatest pals from faculty. We’ve gone earlier than. It's type of an area for us that we simply love a lot and it was going to be a ton of enjoyable. However on the identical time I noticed, occupied with this, I'm truly going to be saving a ton of cash by not doing these two journeys. It's going to be, I imply, simply guessing right here, in all probability round $ 1,500, flights, meals, lodging, all of that. So I'm altering my spending habits because of not having these plans.

So to begin with, I'm placing the entire cash that I might be spending on a visit like this into financial savings. A few of it’s my emergency fund, which I'm attempting to beef up the place there’s lots of uncertainty proper now. And I'm additionally placing a part of it into my journey fund for subsequent 12 months, in order that when journey is secure once more, I can go all out.

Liz: That's an amazing concept. We've been getting lots of refunds, cash coming again in for numerous issues that we both canceled or had been canceled for us. So we've performed the identical factor, is stuffed that cash into financial savings in order that it's there for subsequent 12 months. I've additionally bought an automated financial savings plan arrange. So we’ve a sure amount of cash that goes from our checking account into an internet financial savings account for holidays and for journey. And I really like having that cash earmarked so I don’t have to fret after I go on trip about how I’m going to pay for all of it.

Sean: I’ve an app that I exploit that’s related, and it means that you can make totally different financial savings accounts for various targets like that. Like one will be for garments that you really want. One will be for journey. And I do just about the identical factor with that, the place it's actually useful to have it compartmentalize so, you understand, OK, I'm saving 50 bucks a month for my journey plans. Over time, it actually provides up so much. In order that's simpler to do, and I’ve much more that’s going to be in that account for subsequent 12 months.

Liz: And that's making the most of behavioral finance as a result of we all know that when we put a label on one thing, we're a lot much less more likely to faucet it for one thing else. And that's why I've bought, I need to say a dozen totally different sub accounts at my on-line financial institution as a result of if it's one huge emergency fund or one huge financial savings account, it's very easy to spend the cash after which understand, oops, I wanted to avoid wasting of it for x and I've spent all of it on y. However this manner it type of retains me sincere. And it’s actually arduous for me to go in and seize cash that’s earmarked for trip if I wanted it for one thing else. It truly helps me hold my palms off it.

Sean: One factor that I've additionally observed is that the best way I exploit my bank cards has completely modified over the previous few months as a result of I'm not going to be touring. I've just about stopped utilizing my journey bank card totally. Usually, I'll ramp up my use of it and the early months of the 12 months, so I can get a bunch of factors I can use for my summer time journey. However then as soon as issues went into lockdown, I switched to my cash-back card completely.

Liz: Yeah And lots of issues are altering. So it is likely to be price looking at what classes are getting additional bonuses, as a result of I observed lots of the playing cards which are travel-focused now have a grocery class the place you may get additional factors.

Sean: As a result of they need you to maintain utilizing them.

Liz: Precisely. Yeah And a few of the playing cards with rotating classes have been altering and beefing these up as properly. So I'm persevering with to make use of our journey playing cards. So, I've gone in and brought a have a look at, OK, are any of my factors going to run out due to this pandemic and I can't use them? And it looks like a lot of the bank card firms, and frequent journey plans as properly, are extending the expiration dates. They usually know that everyone’s in the identical boat. We will't journey proper now. So it looks like a lot of the playing cards are making some lodging.

Sean: And that's one thing I used to be frightened about as properly. And searching into it, it looks like most journey bank cards, in the event that they do have an expiration date on factors, it’s between 18 and 36 months, which is decently versatile, however even that has been prolonged due to our present circumstances.

Liz: Yeah And I'm in search of a nerd about this. I've truly put dates on my calendar to say, OK, redo this.

Sean: Proper.

Liz: You realize, like three or 4 months out earlier than factors or miles are speculated to expire, I’m going in and have a look and see what the scenario is. So, I imply, hopefully this will probably be not as unhealthy subsequent 12 months and we received't be coping with this another time. However in case we’re, I need to know what the scenario is.

Sean: One thing I've been occupied with as properly, is the feasibility of doing a social distance or socially accountable highway journey of some kind, whether or not it's a day journey. I used to be speaking to considered one of my pals and her associate was getting actually itchy. He usually takes a trip this time of 12 months. And she or he stated, "Hey, let's simply discover a actually distant seashore, drive there, have a picnic and go dwelling." And it was a day journey that they did. And that was a very nice trip for them. Clearly everybody has their very own stage of threat that they're prepared to take. However I feel that there are methods the place you’ll be able to have many little holidays like that and type of get that itch scratched.

Liz: Yeah I feel that's an amazing concept. And truly, my husband lastly bought me out of the home as a result of he likes to go for drives in his Mustang. He’s bought a convertible Mustang and it’s approach enjoyable. And I've simply been type of puttering round the home. And at last, he bought me out for an extended drive and it was like, "Oh, that is very nice." And did you discover how low cost fuel has gotten? Holy cow.

Sean: Oh yeah, I do know. And in addition, do you know that there’s nonetheless recent air exterior of your own home? It's unbelievable.

Liz: It’s, and sunshine and nature. And yeah, right here in Los Angeles, they lastly opened up the paths once more, which is good. You’ll be able to go get your nature repair, however even if you happen to don’t get out of the automotive, simply driving round and seeing various things, that basically helps.

Sean: Yeah And as you talked about, as a result of fuel is so low cost, any little journey you’re taking like that’s going to be cheaper than it will be even a number of months in the past, which is nice. Properly, whereas this summer time is probably not probably the most thrilling travel-packed summer time that you just've had in your life – I do know it's not going to be for me – I'm wanting ahead to taking advantage of it and the best way that I can by way of saving and likewise having the ability to make my plans for subsequent 12 months as properly. So there’s a silver lining, the place it provides us extra time to make these plans, to save lots of more cash and to coordinate with pals, so when all that is over, we will have a great time collectively.

Liz: Precisely. As a result of that's a part of the enjoyable of a trip is planning it upfront. And I feel that’s what sort of thrown lots of us that like to journey is that we will’t put any particular plans in place, however you’ll be able to nonetheless do the analysis. You’ll be able to nonetheless prepare for it.

Sean: Pick the lodge. Look into what flights is likely to be like, after which finally when issues calm down once more, pull the set off. Prepare for it.

Liz: Completely.

Sean: All proper. Properly, I feel that covers our summer time journey chat. Let's get to this episode’s query from Andrew. He says, "I've been occupied with signing up for a type of identification theft safety companies, however I'm unsure in the event that they're actually price it. How a lot am I truly susceptible to being a sufferer of identification theft, and can these companies assist me keep away from identification theft? "

Liz: OK, the reply to the second query isn’t any, however we'll discuss. . .

Sean: Huge no.

Liz: . . . Huge no, however we'll discuss methods which you could shield your self and methods that you’re in all probability extra in danger than you suppose.

Sean: Yeah Identification theft is a type of uncommon cases the place we're all fairly equally weak to it, no matter earnings, background, the place you reside, however there are some very easy steps you’ll be able to take to safeguard your self from identification theft.

So on this episode of the NerdWallet SmartMoney podcast, we're going to speak about how a lot you're actually susceptible to identification theft, what you are able to do to guard your self, and whether or not these companies are actually going to save lots of you. Once more, the reply isn’t any. Let's get to it.

Liz: OK. Let's speak in regards to the several types of identification theft as a result of I feel individuals take into consideration bank card fraud, and they consider individuals opening up perhaps an auto mortgage of their title. That's simply part of the issue, proper?

Sean: Yeah There are a stunning variety of sorts of identification theft. The beautiful widespread one that everybody thinks of first is perhaps credit score identification theft, the place somebody makes use of your bank card or opens a brand new line of credit score utilizing your Social Safety quantity. These are among the many commonest, however there’s additionally youngster identification theft, the place somebody takes your child’s data. There's additionally artificial identification theft, the place individuals create a patchwork of identification particulars to make a shopper that doesn't even exist, which is fairly inventive and horrifying. So’s taxpayer identification theft. A thief will file your tax return and steal the cash that you could possibly presumably get from the federal government. There's medical identification theft. There are all kinds of sorts of identification theft, and so they actually are simply preying in your private data nevertheless they’ll get it to hopefully flip a revenue for themselves.

So, we might be remiss if we didn’t point out one of many many scams which have popped up because of the coronavirus pandemic. Some scammers are calling individuals alleging to be the Social Safety Administration and demanding that you just verify your Social Safety quantity or different data to get your aid advantages. That may be a rip-off. Know that authorities companies received't simply name you out of the blue like that. And if you happen to do get a name like this, simply cling up.

Liz: Yeah And in regards to the tax return theft, individuals suppose, oh, properly I don’t get a lot of a refund, so I don’t want to fret about this. It's vital to know that the unhealthy guys gin up these W2’s and all the data to allow them to create the utmost refund that they're going to steal. So even if you happen to don’t usually get a refund, you could possibly be in danger.

Sean: Precisely. And that's a part of why we implore individuals to file as quickly as they’ll in order that they’ll stop individuals from utilizing their Social Safety quantity, which might be floating on the market on the web anyway. I feel that we should always all understand that our data might be accessible if individuals actually need to get their palms on it.

Liz: And take into consideration the Yahoo breach, the place individuals’s emails had been taken. Folks suppose, oh, you understand, who cares? It's simply my e mail. Take into consideration all the data that flows via your e mail account about your well being, about your funds, about your scenario at work. All that data can be utilized to trigger tons and plenty of havoc. So identification theft and these breaches are one thing you've bought to take critically. Oh, and let me add the medical half. That's one which's tremendous, tremendous scary as a result of if any person is getting medical care below your data, these recordsdata might be blended in with yours, which suggests in an emergency, a medical supplier might suppose that you’ve got one situation while you don't have that or vice versa.

Sean: Proper. And for this reason people like Andrew and lots of different individuals is likely to be shepherded towards signing up for considered one of these companies, considering that these items are going to be my savior, when that’s not precisely the case. There are some fairly easy issues that you are able to do to guard your self from having your private data utilized in methods which are going to harm you down the highway.

Liz: Let's speak first in regards to the concept which you could stop identification theft as a result of I feel lots of these companies are pitched that approach – that by some means this may hold the unhealthy guys out of your door, and that’s not true in any respect. Proper?

Sean: Probably not. As a result of as we talked about, your data is on the market and so they can't actually cease anybody from utilizing it. What these companies truly do is let you understand if that has occurred, however they’ll't stop it, in fact, as a result of they don't know the place these individuals are. They're not those saying, "Hey, don’t seize that Social Safety quantity." It’s simply accessible on the market. So there’s no approach they’ll actually cease anybody from utilizing it.

Liz: It's an early alert system. And the issues that you are able to do by yourself won’t completely stop identification theft, however I'm going to cite Avivah Litan, who’s a safety professional at Gartner Analysis and mainly says, “What you need to do is to harden your scenario, mainly make it tough sufficient in order that the unhealthy guys go and decide on any person else. "It's much like what you do while you're attempting to burglar-proof your own home. You can not burglar-proof your own home They will get in in the event that they're decided sufficient, however you simply make it sufficient of a ache within the tuchis that they are going to go and trouble any person else.

Sean: One factor that's very easy to do is freezing your credit score profile, as that is now free to do, because of the Equifax hack and the following fallout from that. And it takes, what, 10 minutes to do, Liz? How lengthy does it take you to freeze your credit score?

Liz: Yeah, it doesn't take very lengthy in any respect. And unfreezing it is usually very, very fast. We’ve refinanced our mortgage a number of occasions previously few years and I used to be all the time frightened about placing on a freeze as a result of I had heard it was very tough to thaw the freeze. That's not true in any respect. I imply, it may be performed in seconds. Possibly it takes minutes, and lengthy as you retain monitor of the data, which it will depend on the bureau, however you could have a login and a password or you’ll be able to have a PIN quantity. You bought to maintain monitor of that data as a result of if you happen to lose that, that may be a ache. However by way of placing it on and taking it off, it's actually tremendous straightforward. And it's a type of easy issues that you are able to do that can stop a ton of identification theft.

Sean: For individuals who aren't acquainted with what freezing your credit score is, it's mainly a option to prohibit entry to your credit score report. It prevents lenders from seeing your data, which generally retains them from opening new fraudulent accounts in your title. Be aware that this received’t assist with medical, tax, or different noncredit types of ID theft, however since credit score identification theft is the commonest variety, these straightforward steps which you could take to guard your self are actually price doing.

Liz: I additionally need to discuss limiting publicity, the quantity of people that have your Social Safety quantity. We've bought a very screwed-up system the place the Social Safety numbers develop into the all-purpose identifier. That’s by no means what it was meant to be. And now we've seen via the Equifax breach and so many others, the vulnerability of that system. So that you do must do what you’ll be able to to maintain that Social Safety quantity out of as many locations as attainable. However lots of occasions it's arduous. There are lots of people demanding your Social Safety quantity that haven’t any proper to it. However if you happen to kick up a foot, you don’t know what’s going to occur by way of like your physician’s workplace. I imply, they don’t actually need your Social Safety quantity. Authorities in all probability does. Something that's credit-related or identity-related, frankly, in all probability does want your Social Safety quantity. However you bought to watch out about while you're handing it out. Your veterinarian doesn’t want your Social Safety quantity, and mine has requested for it. It's like that's ridiculous.

Sean: You realize, and one factor that individuals have turned to in lieu of asking for Socials is your telephone quantity. And that's a pleasant different, however there are dangers with that as properly as a result of individuals can do SIM swapping if they’ve your Social and your telephone quantity, and so they can mainly take over your telephone for their very own functions. So watch out with something you're giving out since you don't know whose palms it might fall into. Possibly it's OK for the primary month or a 12 months. However take into consideration all of the stuff you signed up for 5, 10 years in the past at this level, and also you punch in your entire data, and it's in all probability nonetheless sitting on a server someplace. So I bought just a little paranoid about these things. So I attempt to restrict my data as a lot as attainable due to that.

Liz: Yeah I wrote about SIM swaps, and so they're completely terrifying. Principally, they're used to type of get across the verification, the authentication techniques that lots of monetary establishments use. The monetary establishments for a very long time used safety questions, and a few of them nonetheless do, and that’s completely silly as a result of it’s actually, very easy to bypass a safety query or to seek out the reply to it.

Sean: The mom’s maiden title.

Liz: Sure. Good lord. You go to In case you didn't know, if it’s essential analysis any person’s maiden title, it’s tremendous straightforward to seek out the solutions to those issues. So safety questions are usually not safe. So then the following step is two-factor authentication. Two-factor authentication is having two steps. So you could have one thing you understand and one thing you could have. One thing you understand is often the password. After which one thing you could have is both a type of little fobs that generates numbers or an app that generates a quantity, otherwise you're texted a code. Now the issue with texting a code is, once more, in case your telephone is taken over, if there’s considered one of these SIM swaps, the unhealthy guys can get that quantity. And a few of the unhealthy guys are merely calling up and pretending to be the financial institution and saying, “You had been simply texted this quantity. Are you able to inform me what it’s? "And other people will comply? You realize, it's like, don't do this. Don't do this. Anyway. That's just a little little bit of a tangent, however SIM swap is type of scary and you must learn about it.

Sean: It's getting increasingly more widespread so individuals ought to concentrate on it, as a result of they suppose, oh, if you happen to've bought a textual content code, it's this normal type of safety. I can simply go forward with that. And it's not the case anymore, which is even scarians.

Liz: Sure.

Sean: However I do need to flip to the second a part of Andrew’s query now on whether or not these ID theft safety firms, as they prefer to name themselves, can truly stop ID theft. In order we stated, the reply isn’t any. They will't stop unhealthy actors from exploiting your private data. Their companies actually fall below three essential classes. As I discussed earlier than, monitoring, they’ll let you understand in case your data seems on the darkish net after which they’ll warn you to that, which is the second a part of their service, and a few provide restoration as properly. So in case your private data is used to get entry to your checking account or open strains of credit score, they'll enable you resolve that matter. And that's a reasonably beneficial service I’ll say.

However for the primary two issues, you’ll be able to just about do this by yourself if you wish to do the work for that. However there’s a phrase of warning right here I might throw out round signing up for these companies. They are going to typically provide a lower-tier service that’s round $ 10 a month to observe a single credit score bureau, however that’s not enough. You really want to have all three bureaus monitored or frozen is admittedly the simple option to do it. In any other case, it's like locking just one door in your own home. Should you nonetheless have your again door open, somebody might nonetheless get in there and use your credit score data for no matter malevolent goal they’ve. So you must pay in all probability round 30 bucks a month to get all three bureaus monitored. And that provides up actually, actually shortly. And so that you would possibly need to suppose to your self, “OK do I need to pay for the service to do the work that I don’t need to do myself? Or am I OK simply logging in, freezing my credit score and ensuring that I'm secured? "

Liz: It's not lots of work to do the essential monitoring. At NerdWallet, we’ve a free credit score rating. Should you join that, not less than you’ll be alerted if there’s an enormous downside. In case your credit score rating out of the blue drops, you'll be notified. You’ll be able to rush in and see what the issue is. In order that's a monitoring service that’s free, that’s straightforward to arrange. We additionally advocate you go verify your precise credit score report at We’ve got a model on NerdWallet, however you may get the complete file straight from the bureaus at that website. And by the best way, be sure you're going to the correct website as a result of there’s some lookalike websites.

Sean: All proper, Andrew. So to reply your query, ID theft is a risk that all of us face, however you’re possible your individual greatest protection towards it. Should you really need peace of thoughts, I say freeze your credit score. Do the steps that you are able to do fairly simply and without spending a dime to guard your self. However if you would like that additional peace of thoughts and also you don’t thoughts spending 30 bucks a month or so for considered one of these companies, knock your self out. Do what it’s essential do to really feel protected.

Liz: All proper. And with that, let’s get to our takeaway suggestions. Takeaway tip primary, identification theft is available in many types and we should always assume we're all in danger.

Sean: Subsequent up, you’re your individual greatest protection towards identification theft. Freeze your credit score profiles, monitor your billing statements, and be conservative about the place you give your private data.

Liz: And at last, if you happen to're occupied with signing up for an identification theft safety service, know that they’ll't truly stop ID theft, however they’ll warn you when it occurred. Weigh the professionals and cons earlier than signing up since these companies are usually not low cost.

And that's all we’ve for this episode. Do you could have a cash query of your individual? Flip to the nerds and name or textual content us your questions at 901-730-6373, that's 901-730-NERD. You too can e mail us at [email protected] You’ll be able to even e mail us voice memos of your questions. Nevertheless you need to ship them to us is okay. Additionally go to for more information on this episode. And bear in mind to subscribe, price and evaluation us wherever you're getting this podcast.

Sean: And right here is our temporary disclaimer, thoughtfully crafted by NerdWallet’s authorized group. Your questions are answered by educated and proficient finance writers, however we aren’t monetary or funding advisors. This Nerdy information is supplied for common instructional and leisure functions, and should not apply to your particular circumstances. And with that stated, then till subsequent time, flip the nerds.