Don’t be caught the fool |

Don’t be caught the fool

Personal Finance
Danielle Howard
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
Danielle Howard

If you have seen the movie “Identity Thief,” you laughed out loud as Jason Bateman pursues the imposter Sandy, and reclaims his life. If you have had your identity stolen, you know that it is no laughing matter. With more than 9 million victims each year, identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the U.S. As our exposure increases, finding ways to protect our financial information becomes more important.

Keeping an eye on your credit report is your first line of defense. Federal law grants you one free report a year from each of the three reporting agencies. If you order one from each agency every four months, you should be able to stay on top of things inexpensively. You can access these reports from one site:

If you have a spouse, you could alternate credit reports every two months, as many of your accounts are titled jointly and will show up on both reports.

Your free credit report will not give you your credit rating, but the three agencies will give you your rating if you sign up for credit monitoring. They have either a seven- or 30-day free trial of their identity monitoring program, so you could check out your score and then cancel the program. Know that each of the rating services has a different method for calculating your score and that each lender will have its own credit scoring models – so there is no uniform credit score in the industry. In general, the higher the better. If you want to pay for a credit identity monitoring, do your homework to determine which program fits your needs.

Smart phones make our lives so easy, yet at the same time, increase our exposure to potential abuse. The FCC site at will provide you with 10 steps to secure your mobile device.

The Department of Homeland Security’s Stop. Think. Connect. Campaign gives many helpful tips for keeping your smart phone secure. Included are making sure you set your PINs and passwords and not altering the phone’s security settings. Make sure your data is backed up and secure on an alternative device. Only use apps from trusted sources and read through their privacy agreements. Make sure you install security apps that enable remote location and wiping. Accept updates and patches for your software. Be careful in open wi-fi locations. Wipe all data off of your phone before you sell, donate or recycle it. Immediately report a stolen phone to your service provider as well as the local authorities.

Any communication with financial institutions, service providers or any other online transactions should be secure and encrypted. You are one of a kind – be conscientious about personal information you put out on Facebook or other social media sites.

These are just a few suggestions and just a start to what it takes to protect ourselves. Make the investment of time – stay diligent on your credit reports and make necessary corrections. Stay on top of your mobile devices and take the appropriate steps to protect your identity. Then, go enjoy a movie! If you want to talk about other ways to protect your identity please give us a call or email.

Danielle Howard is a Certified Financial Planner ™ practitioner and Financial Life Planner®. Her office is located at 23300 Two Rivers Road in Basalt. Visit her at or call 927-3909. E-mail her at

Advisory services offered through Lighthouse Financial LLC, a registered investment advisor. Securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research Inc., a broker/dealer, member FINRA/SIPC. Cambridge and HFR are not affiliated.

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