“This year I’m going to eat healthier, work out more and lose weight.” Sound familiar? (I made the same resolutions last year and still gained 10 pounds. I’ve taken it off again already, but haven’t lost any of the weight I resolved to lose last year!)
This year I’ve also resolved to take better care of my finances and my credit. If you didn’t include that in your list of New Year’s resolutions on December 31st, January is Financial Wellness Month, so you still have time.
Maybe I shouldn’t admit it here, but I haven’t always practiced what I preach. I’ve missed the 90-day renewal on our fraud alerts more than I’ve met them. I carry too many credit and insurance cards in my wallet. My incoming mail sits in an unlocked mailbox, and when I bring it in it sits on my desk for days.
This year I really need to tighten up … and so do you. In all the articles and predictions I’ve read, 2009 is going to be an especially bad year for identity theft. The economic downturn has given us a spate of mortgage fraud rackets, data breaches and more jobless Americans desperate to make their house and credit card payments by whatever means necessary.
The Lowe’s gift card I got for Christmas will buy my new locking mailbox. My husband is going to replace the locks on the file cabinets (he says) and this time I’ll keep track of the keys so we can actually lock up our financial records.
I’m also renewing my identity theft protection coverage. For nine bucks a month somebody else can set my fraud alerts, order my credit reports, keep me off the junk mail lists and help me replace all that stuff in my wallet the next time I leave my purse in a fitting room at the mall (yes, I’ve actually done that).
If I really thought I’d take care of all that stuff myself, I’d be happy to save the $9, but I’d rather have the time and peace of mind knowing that someone else more reliable than me has got it covered.
Check out some of the biggest identity theft protection providers and see which suits your needs best. Avoid credit-monitoring services; they’ll tell you when someone has already stolen your identity, but do nothing to keep it from happening in the first place. Besides that, they’re no cheaper than a lot of the other services that provide more for the money.
I use LifeLock because they’re cheaper than any of the other full-service companies, they have a good track record with the Better Business Bureau and they keep adding new services without raising prices. (I didn’t have them when I lost my wallet, and I’d gladly have paid for someone else to do the recovery work for me that time! And nobody else offers that.)
Like most everybody else, I’ve cut back on a lot of expenses: I get fewer highlights and get them less often; I do my own nails; I asked for and got lower rates on my credit cards, and I get only basic cable now.
This year we’ll eat out less often to save even more money, but cutting out my identity theft coverage seems penny-wise and pound-foolish to me.