By Theresa Shadrix
If you’ve ever thought you were not important, chances are you’ve not had your identity stolen. It’s the one time in your life that you wish no one knew your name…or credit card number, or birth date, or social security number.
Even if identity theft is not the kind of ego boost you want, someone has taken the time to know all about you. Of course it’s in order to buy stuff. Before you can ask yourself, “Why would someone want my identity?” the thief is busy getting a Kitchen Aid blender, an iPAD or an iPhone.
You know, the type of things you would never buy yourself.
Most people don’t think about protecting their identity when looking for a good deal. But, it’s the first step one should take in couponing and saving money. Often we give away sacred information without thinking twice about it. In our homes, we lock up personal data, but the moment we are asked for our personal email address in order to enter a drawing for a free makeover or for a $1 off an item, we lose all of our wits.
Be stingy with your email
You should be a little stingy with your personal or work email. Your SPAM filter will certainly thank you. My recommendation is to create an email account that you only use for couponing, contests, and deals that require you to share contact information. You can get a free email through Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail. Your username can be your name or you can get creative with a money-saving name.
Don't use your real information
My second recommendation is that you not use your actual birth date. Often times when you print a coupon online you have to register and create an account. This is the one time it is fine to lie about your age. Use your actual month but not the date or year.
Also, when asked for information like your mother’s maiden name, your childhood pet’s name, your favorite of anything, or your high school, by all means feel free to make up something. Not to make you even more paranoid, but in case of a cyber attack, it will harder for the hacker to match up the “cyber” you with the real you.
Write information down and keep in safe place
Now, because you are creating an alter ego, you are going to forget who you are. So, dig around the drawers in your house and find a pen. Then, look under the couch cushions and in the corners of your rooms for a piece of paper. Write down all the data for your “cyber self” on the paper and put it in your safe or in your filing cabinet. Do not write this information on the front of the phone book. You may need it for future reference when you are having an online identity crisis.
Consider PO Box
My third recommendation is that you consider using a post office box for all of your mail. There will be times that you can request free coupons, samples and other goodies but you just are not comfortable using your home address. Sure, it’s an easy find on whitepages.com or many of those “looky who is searching for you” websites, but why not make it as difficult as possible for scammers?
Never give out social security number
One more thing. Never, for any reason, give out your social security number. Along with other personal information, it can be used to apply for credit cards. Trust me when I tell you to protect that number as much as you can.
Many years ago I had my identity stolen because someone had my full name, birth date and social security number. Granted the person was a family member who stole my identity and I only discovered there were several credit cards with massive unpaid bills when my husband and I were trying to buy a car. It was not a minor hassle. The credit card companies required that I file a police report. It was sweet to get a lecture from the police officer on my “turning in” a family member, while my entire credit history was wiped clean and I had to start over. Needless to say, I haven’t been to any family reunions.
The bottom line when you are in couponing and saving money, keep who you are to yourself…or you might have a big identity crisis.
Contact Theresa Shadrix at firstname.lastname@example.org.