Finish Rich
May 12, 2004 Transcript

CNN American Morning

David Talks about Interest Rates:

Soledad: When bad things happen to your good name, it is, of course a financial nightmare. We're talking about identity theft. It's the number one white collar crime in the U.S., claiming more than 27 million victims in the last five years. More than $400 million in losses were reported last year alone. So what is an unsuspecting consumer supposed to do? David Bach is the author of "The Automatic Millionaire." He sat down with me for some 90-second tips on beat this financial foe.

David: Smart, aggressive thieves are stealing your information off a laptop to as simple as leaving your ATM receipt on the bank floor to having your identity laying around your office. Having your mail lying around the office. Your social security on your health identification card in the office. Someplace where we leave the information out there and someone looking to steal identity is watching for it.

Soledad: Is the strategy to try to avoid it or the best strategy to try to detect it early so the person stealing your identity can't get away with too much?

David: It's absolutely both. How do you protect your identity? Be very aggressive and be smart. The easiest thing you can do, and we've heard this time and time again, but nobody does it. Shred your mail. The most important mail to be shredding is the junk mail. If you take a credit card junk mail piece and just throw it into the garbage can, somebody can steal that, apply for a credit card, they've got your name. But it's being also very careful with who you give your social security number to. The other day they wanted my social security number and I said no. You've got my health identification number. You don't need both. We're used to filling out forms and just giving out our social security number.

Soledad: Many require your social security number as your identification number.

David: You're right. And I will tell you probably 2 out of 10 times, it's really necessary. So ask somebody, why do you need my social security number? Don't carry your social security number with you. People carry their passport with them as identification. Don't have the social security number with you anywhere you go. Don't write these things down. Don't put them in your palm pilot. If you have a palm pilot, put a code on it so it's got a password protection. If you lose your palm pilot or blackberry, and it's not password protected, boom, I'm inside. All of your life's information, I've got everything I need to steal your identity.

Soledad: Keep track of your receipts. Do you think a lot of people don't know when their identity has been stolen?

David: Every single time you shop, take that receipt. I actually staple the receipts to my day timer. One for IRS purposes, but, two, I want to make sure that when I go and get my visa statement that everywhere i spent money actually matches the visa statement. A lot of times identity theft doesn't come down to thousands. It can come down to $50 once a month and you don't notice it. Then you notice you've had $1,000 stolen over the year and easily taken away from you.

Soledad: What if you suddenly discover that you are the victim of identity theft?

David: If you discover you are the victim of identity theft, the fastest way to notice is to check your credit card statements and then get your credit report once a year. They can put your account on identification notice. What that means is any time someone applies for credit in your name, they will contact you. That can be a big pain in the butt for you because you may go and use your credit card and they may not immediately let it go through. But this is done in your own protection. There's also an 800 number that will show you the number to call. The government has a number to call if you have your credit card stolen and they'll notify the agencies. I believe it is 1-877-id-theft.

Soledad: David Bach, thanks very much. And David is the host of his only nationally syndicated radio show that air on Saturdays on Sirius Satellite Radio. And catch David every Wednesday here on American Morning for tips on how to improve your financial life.