Remember the day when you

by francine Hardaway on November 3, 2005

Remember the day when you could just take your junk mail out of the mailbox and throw it straight into the trash, bypassing the waste baskets in the house? Or when you could receive a credit card bill, write a check without reading the bill, and throw the bill out? Those days are long gone–sacrificed to the spectre of identity theft.

I’ve had my identity stolen several times, each time by a foster child who snagged a credit card to charged small things like fast food and gas.

But I’ve not (yet) experienced “the big one”–the kind of identity theft where someone assumes your name, but not your frugal lifestyle, and causes you untold hassles just to prove you are really yourself.

I say “not yet,” because I figure identity theft is like bird flu; it will either mutate and catch me, or not, and there’s little I can do about it.

I am, however, irrationally hoarding a dose of Tamiflu, and I’m irrationally trying to prevent identity theft as well. And I can only tell you that living in fear is terribly time consuming.

First I had to buy the shredder. Then I had to figure out what to shred. This meant I had to start reading my junk mail. If anything says “preapproved,” or comes with one of those fake checks, I shred it.

Sometimes I even wait for the postman, because my mail is delivered to a slot in the front of my house, but it doesn’t all fit through, and it hangs out until I get it from the outside. I imagine this was a very secure way of getting mail fifty years ago, when the house was built, before all the deluge of catalogues, flyers and newspapers that now constitutes the bulk of the US Mail (bad pun).

I shred my bank statements, which now come in both paper and plastic(computer). I also shred my credit card bills — the ones I still have to receive in the mail. I’ve stopped almost everything from coming in the mail, because the mail is a big source of identity theft.

This creates problems in and of itself, because if my Quickbooks fails, I have no tax records. This summer, my PC was stolen, and that’s where I have all my financial records. Although they were backed up, it was a struggle restoring them. And there’s no paper trail. The days of the paper trail are over.

All this takes time. It takes even more time if you try to short cut the process by overloading the shredder, which then stops in the middle. Then you have to un-jam it and begin all over again, with the half-shredded documents in your hand.

All this is a long way of saying that I am moving again: this time to a high rise condo in the Central City where they deliver the mail to a locked box in a secure room.

You may find me in the future at : 4750 North Central Avenue, Unit 9N, Phoenix, AZ 85012. But don’t you dare send me anything in the mail. I will only shred it.

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