Identity Theft - simple steps to protect yourself

February 11, 2020

Many years ago, I (Josh) took my wife out for a coffee. What was supposed to be a fun little date went south fast:

                  “I’m sorry sir, your card has been declined.” 

My wife stared at me in unbelief. I handed the barista my credit card and thankfully that worked, but I wasted no time calling the bank.

                  “Your checking account has a negative balance… did you go to Gamestop and Home Depot yesterday?”

Thankfully the thieves didn’t get far before their cloned copy of my debit card was declined. But the ensuing hassle was terrible. New bank accounts with new numbers, new debit cards, new credit cards, and setting up new payments for every bill.


Has this ever happened to you? Whether it’s bank fraud like what happened to Josh’s family, email account compromise, or outright stolen identity, most of us know someone or have been directly impacted ourselves by identity theft.

So we’ve prepared some tips and an opportunity to take action to protect yourself:

  1. Realize that fear doesn’t help you sleep at night. Do the best you can and trust that if you are attacked you will come through it.
  2. Digital:
    • Use a password service that will generate complex passwords for your logins and securely store them so you don’t have to. It will also protect your passwords from being stolen.
    • Subscribe to a credit monitoring service that will proactively alert you if anything out of the ordinary happens with your credit.
    • Setup email and text alerts for bank transactions. Most banks offer this and will send you a message if a transaction above a certain dollar amount happens in any of your accounts.
    • Use a one-way online backup service that will be safe from attackers compromising and deleting your online storage of documents and family photos. Understand that if you use iCloud, Google Drive, Dropbox, or any other similar service, that if your account is compromised all your information could be lost. 
  3. Paper:
    • Don’t mail checks. If you’re used to mailing checks this can be a stretch we know, but digital payments are actually more secure. If you do mail checks, drop them in a post office box rather than leave them in your mailbox for a crook to find before the mail carrier does.
    • Leave personal information off checks. This includes phone numbers, driver’s license numbers, professional designations, and if you want to be extra careful, use only your initials for your first and middle name.
    • SHRED! Going through recycle bins and trash is a common and simple way that crooks steal personal information. Anything with an account number should be shredded, and especially anything with birthdates, driver’s license numbers and social security numbers.

To help you get started, here's some suggested companies you can explore:*

*This list is for general informational purposes only and does not serve as a specific endorsement by Gig Harbor Financial Services or LPL Financial.

Have a question or need more help? CONTACT US to schedule a time to meet with one of our qualified advisors.