Friday, April 20, 2012

Protecting your identity

Protecting your identity is no different than protecting your wallet, purse, or bank information.  It is unfortunate that people have the need or desire to steal.  Several ways exist to help protect you and your family from theft.  After all, if you make a ton of money only to be stolen by someone, that can be very disheartening.

Withdrew life savings to take this picture
Below I will list a few inexpensive ways to protect you and your family from theft:

1. Do not live in a neighborhood with a Home Owner's Association (HOA)

When I lived in Kentucky, the only place that I found decent was located in a home owners association.  As I stated in a previous article, we should have rented rather than purchase a house.  We had our first experience with a home robbery while living in an HOA community.  I had just bought a new miter saw ($200) and was working on my baseboards.  I would make a cut in my garage and then go in the house for a minute to nail it in the wall, then come back and make another cut.  I did this for about 5 times when the 6 time I came into the garage and it was gone.  At 2pm in the afternoon on a Thursday!  We lived at the end of a cul-de-sac.  My wife was paranoid and ready to move out.  The police man that came to the house said it happens all the time.  He pointed to several houses that had thousands of dollars taken in jewelry and another house getting tools stolen.

I've noticed from talking to others who lives in these HOA places that the people seem to be quite nosy.  One of my friends told me after moving in that about 5 women came to his door welcoming him and his wife to the neighborhood.  They knew he had a rental property, where he worked, and how much he paid for their house.  All of this is public information, but seriously...can you say stalkers?  Plus if they don't like something they complain to the HOA board.  The HOA can put a lien on your house if you don't comply with some silly rule like not being able to have a privacy fence.  So, if you enjoy your freedom...just say no!

Although I'm not certain, it just seems like these places would be easy targets for thieves.  One thing is for sure...make certain you keep your garage door closed at all times.  The thieves in our HOA stole items from the garage or entered the house an open garage door.

My final reasoning about HOA areas is the cost.  You are paying management fees.  Personally, I do not care whether someone's yard has turned into a meadow.  I do not care if someone paints their house pink or purple.  Many people have the mentality that if they lived in an HOA that people would take care of their homes, and all of the property values would increase.  How true was this?  It had the opposite effect.  I do not have data, but I would bet that homes that have an HOA or condo association dropped at a much greater rate than those that do not.

The things that decrease property values are, bad economy (people leaving, foreclosures), and not maintaining your home.  Being a real estate investor, I'm shocked at how many homes haven't updated anything in 20 or 30 years.

2.  Don't buy an expensive stereo system

More importantly if you do get a stereo system, do it yourself.  Have a friend help you out.  The problem with installing aftermarket stereos is the company has your address.  Many times thieves are the ones installing your system.  I've heard countless times of people having a new stereo only to be stolen a week later.  Thieves typically are someone who knows you.  Even if you don't know them.

3.  Buy used cars with a manual transmission 

Why buy a used car?  Ok, this probably isn't going to help you with preventing thieves from stealing, but it will typically save you money.  Most thieves probably aren't smart enough to be able to drive a manual.  Do yourself and the world a favor and learn how to drive one.  If my mom and both of my sisters can drive a stick can too.  They are much more fun to drive, keep people more engaged in driving (stop texting already), give your left leg some exercise, and your car will weigh less giving you better gas mileage.  A manual transmission costs less, and is easier to maintain.

4.  Tint your windows

Tinting your car windows makes it harder for thieves to see inside.  This should be obvious.

5.  Freeze your credit with Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian.

In Ohio the cost was $15 for all 3 places.  Help prevent someone from getting access to additional credit.  I recently did this since I do not see myself needing to get any type of credit in the near future.  Better to be safe than sorry.  However, it could be a real inconvenience if you purchase a lot of property, or fill out lots of credit applications.  Plus it would cost you $15 to unfreeze the account.

6.  Do not announce that you are going on vacation

The last thing you want to announce to all of your friends is that you will be going on vacation.  Much like the HOA problems...I figure most people who steal are from people you know.  It is too much risk to a theft to enter into a house that they haven't scoped out first.

Personally I have my home booby-trapped like the kid had his in Home Alone.  It also helps when the stuff in my house isn't worth stealing.


  1. I recently had my check card number stolen and used for an online purchase. The cop who took the report had two words of advice. Never make purchases online, and always use cash. He said identity theft has gotten so bad that the only way to stop it will be to go back to cash only.

    1. Hi Tyler! I'm sorry that happened to you. I'm not sure if you read my article on debit cards.

      I hate debit cards, and do not have them. They are the worst form of money. I liked having an ATM card, but those are hard to find. Most banks want you to have debit cards. I have only had my check card/debit card stolen before. In fact, I never even activated one of my debit cards and they still stole money. It all got worked out in the end, but what a hassle. In my opinion...the cop is wrong. The problem is that debit cards/check cards are the least secure form of money. I hope you got your money back.


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