We’ve all been there—whenever you’re relaxing or lounging about on a lazy Sunday, your wallet, keys, and other essentials seem glued to you. Wherever you go, they’re in plain sight and just begging to be noticed. But when it’s Monday morning and you’re already ten minutes behind schedule—poof! They’ve disappeared for a game of hide-and-seek. Most of the time they’re just lurking behind that vase or maybe even in the fridge, but what happens when they go missing for good?
After photographer Jessamyn Lovell’s wallet vanished at an art gallery in 2009, Lovell took the right precautionary steps: canceling all her credit cards and asking her company to put a fraud alert on her credit file. Even with all the preventive measures, however, misfortune came in the form of a phone call from the police, informing Lovell that a San Francisco woman had been arrested for trying to check into a hotel with Lovell’s driver’s license. Bills also started pouring in, including unpaid parking tickets and three damaged rental cars. The woman, Erin Hart, caused Lovell so much grief that Lovell decided to turn the tables and create an art exhibit out of her, which eventually spawned a book entitled Dear Erin Hart.
Luckily, Lovell was able to successfully dispute charges and save her credit from what would have been a shocking amount of damage. Her story, however, could have ended much more badly. If the police hadn’t been savvy enough to realize that Hart had been using someone else’s ID, the charges could have gone on to swamp Lovell with bad credit, headaches, and never-ending bills. In addition to canceling her credit cards and alerting her company to potential fraud, Lovell could have also added another step: screening herself online periodically.
It may sound silly, but searching for yourself online may be one of the most effective ways of protecting yourself. It allows you to see what other people see if they search you up. Specific services, such as SpyFly, go even further and allow easy access to any individual’s records such as criminal history, sexual offenses, financial problems, and more. Had Lovell performed this check, she would have been able to see a series of misdemeanors under her name and may have been able to nip her problems in the bud.
Remember that identity theft is a serious problem and periodically searching for yourself online may be one of the most effective ways to prevent it. If you lose any of your IDs, credit cards, or the like, remember to immediately inform your bank, the DMV, or the appropriate company. If there is even a hint of identity theft, contact the police immediately. All these safeguards may seem excessive or even paranoid but are guaranteed to pay off in the long run.