*Identity Theft While Laid-Off*
By: Pistolshooter
31 May 2021

We had an awakening April 27, 2021 when we found out that all our savings had been taken from our savings account. We keep very little money in the checking account, and we always have and use cash where possible. At the time I did not know there were insurance companies that provided bank account identity theft protection until I was talking to another Rubie recently. He told me that the insurance is not that expensive, and in hindsight, very worthwhile to have, if I had known. Even though we do not have a 401K or other investments, I was about to announce my retirement in a few weeks. My wife has not worked in years, so she would be retiring too. She is not old enough to draw full social security. That is about 5 years away for her.

A little history and what we have done:

Since the cyber-attack or hack, we have put a freeze on our credit reporting bureau accounts through Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. There are a total of 10 credit bureau companies (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion, Innovis, Chex, NCTUE, and under Core Logic are Credco, Rental Property Solutions, and Teletrack. New services that are trying to get started are: TALX, Sagestream, and Advanced Resolution Services). These are the bureaus that various major companies use to check your credit score and get your credit history. This service to freeze your credit account is free, easy, and reversable. The 3 bureaus we have frozen our credit account with are the major ones, but we were told (?? I have not confirmed this) that they all share their information with each other. Basically, if your information stored by the credit reporting bureaus is not available, no institution will allow the creation of a new account with your identity. The book, mentioned below, also suggested that a credit freeze be put on your minor children's account. The problem I see with that, is forgetting that the account is frozen for 10+ years, and they go out on their own and cannot get credit because you have forgotten the PIN you had for their account, or you wrote it down, and it has been misplaced.

Fraud Alerts can also be put on your accounts, but the alerts only last for 1 year and can easily be by-passed. I would recommend that everyone put a freeze on their personal credit through the above mentioned credit bureau agencies. If you need to open an account, just unfreeze the account long enough for the company taking the application for credit to get the information they need. Then re-freeze the account. I also recommend that you get some insurance for your bank accounts, so you do not end up in a situation like we are experiencing. We did file a report with identytheft.gov. Not that it will help us now.

In 2017, Equifax had a cyber-attack (hacked), and 147.9 million accounts were stolen. In 2016 the OPM (Office of Personnel Management) was hacked, and 21.5 million accounts were stolen. (If you have ever had a military security clearance, which goes through the OPM, the hackers now have all your information.) Then you may remember the various banks, international hotel chain (Marriott), eBay, LinkedIn, Yahoo, the recent Colonial pipeline (that left the south and east coast without gasoline), power grids, and other companies that made the news that have been victims of cyber-attacks. Even the IRS was hacked in 2016 with 700,000 accounts being stolen. That information stolen was for their whole families, parents, and children that included all the information you would need to open accounts. Your information is out there whether you know it or not. Ironically, the week before I started with my previous employer, Plant Process Equipment (PPE), they were hacked and almost 200 employees had all their information stolen.

Most companies you deal with have all or part of your information. Such as: credit card companies, title deed companies, utility companies, banks, social media, and other venues have your: date-of-birth and where you were born, home address, telephone numbers, social security number, credit card numbers, PIN numbers, and other personal information about you, including your employment history. All anyone has to do is put it all together in some cases, and they will have your complete credit and employment history. PIN numbers are fairly easy to figure out. They are usually part of your social security number, or your address, or your birth year, or birth year of one of your children, or something simple that is related to your information.

Most department store credit card companies have very weak security systems in place to protect your information. Some have been hacked and do not even know it. Especially department stores like Dillard's, J.C. Penny's, Macy's, and etc. These types are very vulnerable, and with the rising sophistication of the cyber-attacks, no one is really safe anymore. We have and use only 2 credit cards, a Visa, and a Master Card. When we use our debit card, we avoid using our PIN, and just use our zip code where possible. We do not need all the other cards, and have used cash as much as possible. No debt that way.

Then the following week after the identity theft, May 5, 2021, I was laid off from my job. They called it a "furloughed", so they would not have to pay me for the vacation I had accumulated. Because of the current administration in Washington, a lot of jobs have been cut in my field as a senior or lead electrical designer for heavy industrial projects such as new or expansions to chemical plants, refineries, oil and gas pipelines, compressor stations, and etc. Most companies that deal with the oil, gas, or chemical industry have been pulling their projects or putting the projects on the shelf (on hold) until the business atmosphere is more profitable or favorable to them again. There are 4 large engineering companies that I have previously work for in the Houston area that have closed up shop.

We moved to our present home a few years ago, rented a nicer and more costly house than we had, and I had just purchased a new truck last year when the dealers were almost giving away vehicles. We have gone through being laid off and furloughed in the past, but we always had some money in the bank to fall back on if we had an emergency, unlike this time, and with not as many large bills as we have now. This time, things are, or seem to be different. It is the atmosphere of the industry or something in the air that makes this feel different. I have not been able to put my finger on it yet, but I will. I have friends in my field of work that have been laid off for over a year, and according to them, there is absolutely nothing in the job market for us at this time. I have not had 1 interview or call in over 2 months.

A friend gave us a book on "Extreme Privacy – What it Takes to Disappear" second edition by Michael Bazzell. It is highly informative, and shows you how to avoid what we are now going through, while keeping everything legal and above board. It is a highly informative book for me. I will use a lot of the information when I get back to work.

In the meantime, we are Rubies that are well stocked, and we will be fine because of the wisdom that has been shared on the boards. And our FNV in the past by using our stored food and stuff for an extended period of time. We have a small social security check every month, and also I now have the unemployment check to help with some of the bills, while it last. We have never had to ask for financial help in the past, and do not plan to ask for help this time around. We will make it. Several times in the past we have been without a primary job for over a year. We have relied on our Faith in God, and the wisdom He has given us, when we listen, to provide for us. We will be fine, but it does look like I will be working, when I get another job, for a while longer than I had planned, or until God intervenes on our behalf. We are Blessed.


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