FLORENCE, S.C. – Rotary Club of Florence members heard from one of their own members on Monday about what it is like to have one’s identity stolen.
Regi Armstrong, president/partner of Armstrong Wealth Management Group, was the guest speaker at Victors.
Armstrong said he was visiting family in Pennsylvania on a weekend early in the year when he was alerted that someone had access to his social security number and address and was trying to open bank accounts in his name. It became even more serious when he was alerted that someone was attempting to take out a $250,000 small business loan in his name with the Small Business Administration. This was on a Sunday.
Armstrong didn’t wait. He immediately took action.
Identity theft occurs when a criminal gets your personal information and tries to steal money by opening new credit cards, applying for loans and committing other crimes using your identity. If not detected, it can result in damage to your credit, unwanted bills in your name and many headaches and frustration in trying to restore your credit.
“This was a highly stressful time,” Armstrong said.
He told the Rotarians what they can do in advance to avoid such a situation and what he did after being alerted.
Armstrong said he already had LifeLock” which sets up fraud alerts. He suggests this type service. Without this type of service, he said the damage may have been more significant. With the alert, he was able to act fast, he said.
Armstrong said to consider a credit freeze, which he did, and have a financial-only email address, which he now has.
Other suggestions he made for basic ID theft protection were to use complex passwords/password manager and to set up verbal passwords. Armstrong said to monitor credit cards through alerts and use two-factor authentication.
He said to make your home router high security, beware of ATM skimmers, don’t click on strange emails, never give out personal information, shred all personal information, don’t use free public WiFi without VPN, and set devices to auto install security updates.
Some of the immediate actions a person can take once alerted that their identification has been compromised, Armstrong said, are to contact the company and stop the action, close accounts as necessary, contact credit bureaus and freeze credit/place fraud alerts, notify financial companies you do business with of your situation, file a local police/sheriff’s office report, file an ID theft report with the FTC at identitytheft.gov, file Form 14039 Identity Theft Affidavit with the IRS and file Form 1350 with SC DOR (or your state’s version).