I’ve been absent from the online world and I know I’ve got some splaining to do (in the words of Ricki Ricardo)…….So here it goes….My wallet was stolen in June of this year……..Identity theft is no joke, but it was the start of the domino effect that threw everything out of wack, followed by a series of other unfortunate events.
I get told all the time: “I used to be organized at one point….until X”. I get that. I kept feeling like I couldn’t grab any traction. In the organization world, this is called Situational Disorganization. I am fortunate enough that I have increased my awareness and know that I need to slow down in order to recover from things. I praise God today for His restoration, I know the damage could have been a lot worse.
Today, I want to share what systems I am relieved that I had in place, and what I learned from this experience.
How it happened
Even as I write this…the guilt begins to fester.
I was shopping for a lovely client at Home Goods, distracted looking at all the eye candy, looking over pictures, and reviewing dimensions over and over again.
The isles are so tight and I didn’t want to inconvenience others so I kept leaving my cart in a more open space with my purse on it, unattended.
How could I be so trusting?…..
I acknowledge that I have never been hurt this way. Nobody has ever stolen from me. I am grateful that I had been shielded from an experience like this before.
And now I am much stronger from it.
As the police said: “Nobody goes out expecting to be a victim”. So I give myself grace so that I can move forward.
Anyway, back to the story…..
As I got close to my cart, a man asked me for suggestions on a hamper “for a girl”.
I remember thinking….. that’s odd, why did he say “a girl” instead of “my wife” or “my girlfriend” etc.
I asked: Is this for your wife or your girlfriend?
He stutters for a second and seems to be searching for the answer.
I should have paid attention to that RED FLAG but I wanted to be nice so I continued the conversation.
“Oh”, he says.. “it’s for my girlfriend”. I asked him more questions and he kept searching for the answer.
He then points to a basket at the far end of the aisle.
What happened next, I learned from the police, is that his buddy took my wallet while I was getting distracted by questions.
I remember as soon as he got the basket in his cart he ran off. But, at the point – I thought nothing of it.
Lesson #1 – PREVENTION TIP: Never leave your purse unattended and be aware of your surroundings. It’s NOT about trusting or not trusting people. It’s about being safe.
I finished my shopping and went to pay.
Once at the register I discovered my wallet was missing.
I thought for a second, maybe I left it at home.
I thanked the cashier and told her I’d be back.
Well, I got home, my phone started getting alerts from my credit cards to approve purchases.
The bandido(s) attempted to use my credit cards and failed.
But, were successful at using my debit cards. I had my whole life in my wallet….you know what I mean?
The panic set-in. I felt all the feelings and cried a river of tears.
An instant feeling of betrayal and anger filled my heart.
My husband tried to calm me as anxiety filled my legs.
I had to snap out of it.
My fight or flight instincts kicked in and I began to respond to the credit cards that had sent me notifications.
Systems I had in place that aided my recovery
The first thing I needed to do was to mitigate the amount of damage they could do. So I needed to try to remember all the cards and information I had in my wallet. It’s advised that you have a scan of all your cards in your safety box.
Here are the things that I had in place that really aided identity theft recovery. I can’t stress this enough. This could easily have been the point where I was filled with anxiety and hopelessness had I not had these things in place.
(1) A Bill paying tracker:
I went paperless on my bills a long time ago. But I had this bill tracker printed out with a log of all my monthly payments. It lets me see at a glance the bills I have paid and what is still unpaid.
Instead of having a sea of papers, I just have ONE sheet to track all my monthly expenses.
This Bill tracker was instrumental in helping me make sure to notify all the creditors for payment extension until I got my new account information to update payment.
No guessing, no trying to remember who I pay every month, no searching for bills in piles. Which means I was one step ahead and mitigated any late charges and fees.
(2) LastPass Password Manager:
I had to notify the credit card companies but didn’t have the physical card or the account numbers listed anywhere. But thanks to the online portals I was able to retrieve this information by logging into each account online.
My online password manager helped to get me logged in quickly and painlessly. Can you imagine in a time of anxiety having to manually enter each digit and having to re-enter because you made a mistake?!
With LastPass, all you need is one password and it remembers all the other passwords for you as it logs in automatically. It will even help you generate secure passwords, which means cybersecurity.
It changed my life! If you want to give it a try? Click here to get a month trial of premium, free.
(1) Have cash in a safety box for emergencies
I had to close all my bank accounts and start over. My funds were locked since the bank had to do their investigation before crediting back the funds that were stolen from my account.
I had no debit cards, checks, cash, or credit cards. I was left inoperable, struggling to feed my family for a week. Not fun.
(2) Get Identity theft protection
When your identity is compromised it can mean countless hours trying to fix your credit report of fraudulent activity. With so many ways that your identity can get stolen. Identity theft protection is your line of defense to Prevention, Remediation, and Recovery. It’s no longer an option but a need for us.
(3) Keep everything together
I made a quick checklist for you, in the event that you need it. I found it daunting to try and keep all the pieces of information together. With this printable,
you’ll have all the important details pertaining to recovering in one place. Make sure and keep it in your safety box in the event you need to act fast.
(4) Get a new purse
I have the tendency of putting my purse on the cart because the strap bothers me on one side. Armed with the AWARENESS of this habit I decided to purchase a bag that will be more comfortable and fit my needs. This backpack-style purse has the qualities that I am looking for.
Getting organized prepares you to better handle LIFE when a situation like this happens. Whether it’s identity theft or anything else that comes your way, remember to breathe, rest, and pull back on commitments when life feels like too much. Oh, and give yourself grace, lots, and lots of grace. You’re doing the best you can and that’s all we CAN do sometimes.
What about you? Has your identity ever been compromised? What lessons did you learn?