Watch out for doppelgangers

Published 10:15 pm Thursday, October 16, 2014

By Nathan Rice

Halloween is around the corner, which means it’s the time of year when scary is in season, ghost stories are popular, and witches and devils appear on lawns and in stores throughout Hampton Roads.

Some of the stories shared around campfires this October may involve a doppelganger. Doppelgangers are often described as ghosts of living people or evil twins. Throughout the years stories of evil lookalikes creating havoc in someone’s life have both fascinated and terrified individuals.

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In today’s world perhaps even scarier than a traditional doppelganger is the real threat of a credit doppelganger or, as we call them today, identity thieves.

Identity thieves use a number of nefarious ways to obtain your personal information. They then use that information to make purchases, open accounts or loans, and even access your banking account.

Fixing the problems created by your credit doppelganger can take a lot time and patience, but there are things you can do to stop these thieves before they take on your identity.

Monitoring your accounts is one big thing you can do. When an identity thief strikes, time is of the essence. The faster you notify your financial institution of fraudulent activity, the faster cards can be blocked, accounts frozen and warnings placed.

Sometimes identity thieves will even test accounts with small transactions to see if the account is being monitored. Once they realize the account has not been frozen, they proceed with larger charges.

Most institutions allow you to monitor your account by phone, online banking, and mobile apps. Check your account frequently. Many times people monitor their primary account, but do not check their secondary or smaller accounts.

You may not be using them, but you should still check to ensure no one else is using them. At the very least be sure to check every account monthly. Don’t just shred those monthly statements without verifying the activity.

Speaking of shredding, even though many institutions are going fully electronic, there is still a need for a good shredder in every household. Identity thieves are still searching through garbage cans and recycling bins in the hopes of finding a treasure trove of your personal information. All they need to get started is a monthly statement or the latest pre-approved credit card offer you discarded. It is their first step in obtaining your information and taking on your identity.

Do not give them this head start. Shred everything that contains your information before throwing it away.

Finally, be careful online. There are a number of ways thieves try to obtain your information electronically. Invest in a good anti-virus software, create passwords that are difficult to guess and change them every few months, be careful when following links from any email and remember the old adage that if something is too good to be true, it probably is.

Be careful, but do not be afraid of your credit doppelganger. Rather, arm yourself with knowledge and stop them before they start.

Nathan Rice is the relationship manager of the Downtown Suffolk branch of ABNB Federal Credit Union. He is a Hampton Roads native and can be reached at