I have a scary story to share. I meant to share it 2 weeks ago (sorry!) but so much has happened since and I felt I should share all of the information I’ve gathered in case (heaven forbid) the same thing ever happens to you.
OK. Let me just rip the band-aid and tell you – my identity was stolen.
It really sounds SO silly saying it out loud. It’s something I never thought would ever happen to me, I mean come on! I’m a type-A businesswoman for crying out loud! I watch my credit like a hawk! I’m super careful when shopping online and I only share my personal information when it’s absolutely necessary. How could this ever happen to me?
Like many, I was one of those who shopped at Target during their breech period late last year (I mean, who didn’t shop at Target during that period??). You might think this situation was because of Target, but in reality I only used my debit card and my bank swiftly sent me a replacement since they’re on top of that kind of stuff. Also, I knew it wasn’t Target’s fault because it was my social security number that was stolen. My SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER! How? Why? HOW?!
Anyway, I bring up Target because if it weren’t for them I might be oblivious at this moment that my identity was stolen. Target signed me up for free credit monitoring as part of their diligent apology for the breech. I couldn’t be more grateful for this!
You’re probably wondering, how did I find out? Well, it was a normal Wednesday morning when I received the first alert via email from Target’s credit monitoring service “Surveillance Alert!”. Hmmm, that’s weird. So I logged in to check it out… and my mouth dropped. There were 5 (FIVE!) new inquiries on my credit for 5 retail credit cards that were opened within the last 4 business days. This is bad.
If you’re at all familiar with the credit bureau setup, there are three agencies: TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. Your credit reports from these three agencies can vary, for example information will hit one report faster than another, inquiries will post to one agency and not to another, your credit score will be different across these three reports for this exact reason. Most credit monitoring services are linked to only one of the agencies, so as soon as I saw that I had these 5 inquiries on one report, I knew there was a huge possibility of more posting to my other reports. Down the rabbit hole I went…
I ran my other two credit reports & scores, paid the fees to do so (the fees are super dumb but in this case I would pay anything to stop someone from stealing my identity!). Between the 3 credit reports, I found a total of 11 (!!!) retail accounts attempted to be opened in my name. I was flabbergasted. Someone has my social security number, someone is opening retail credit cards in my name and maxing them out. Someone is ruining my credit as we speak. I felt utterly powerless!
Of course I wanted to cry and throw things, but really the only thing I could do was contact each retailer and put a stop to these accounts. I spent the next 8 hours calling retailers, filing a police report, filing a complaint with the FTC, and opening fraud investigations with each retailer. The amount of work I’ve had to do to clean this up was ridiculous, not to mention I’m still working on these accounts, 2+ weeks later! I do have to look on the bright side and be thankful that each retailer has a fraud department, and that each retailer provided as much guidance and help possible to fix this situation. I can’t imagine having this happen 10 or so years ago when this crime was really started taking place. The crappy part about all of this is this person will most likely not get caught, and will continue to live their lives by ruining others. I’m lucky to be as diligent as I am in monitoring my credit, and being as responsible to react so quickly.
After telling friends and coworkers about this situation I began hearing their stories like “oh someone took out a mortgage in my name” or “someone tried to cross the boarder with my identity”. What if I was less diligent? What if I never checked my credit reports? What if I wanted to buy a house and got turned down because I didn’t know someone had ruined my credit by stealing my identity? What if one day I got calls from collection agencies saying I owed over $15K in credit card debt that I never even knew about?! $15K is about as much as this person who stole my identity was granted in credit from using my identity. I can’t even imagine.
Moral of the story: check your credit regularly. By law everyone is entitled to 3 free credit reports each year (www.annualcreditreport.com). Put reminders on your calendar, run these reports every 4 months and make sure no one is living their lives at your expense. This can happen to anyone. If it happened to me, it can happen to you.
*Update* I’ve been asked if this affects my credit score. Absolutely it does, which is the WORST part of this mess! Until these fraud investigations close and the credit bureau blocks additional information from hitting my credit, each one of these hard inquiries and balances will negatively affect my credit score. Every inquiry that is reported to your score (like a credit application or credit check), regardless if an account is actually opened, drops your score. I’ve been told it will take on average 90 days for each account to be resolved. Let’s hope it happens sooner!
I wish I could say I’m one of those people who loves to read. I mean, I like to read, I used to be a big book worm in grade school, and I definitely love a good series and will usually pick up a well recommended book, but I don’t love to read. It’s probably an excuse but I feel like I just don’t have enough time to read. Does anyone else feel this way? I read a lot of blogs, does that count as reading?
A couple months ago I stumbled on Joanna’s Motherhood Mondays series – if you haven’t read this series, you MUST, it’s a virtual page turner! Specifically her articles on parenting around the world, places like Norway, Japan, Dubai and more – I’m not kidding, these interviews will blow your mind! Anyway, as I stumbled on her series I read her post about a book she read called French Kids Eat Everything, by Karen Le Billon. I’m about half way through, and no joke, this book has completely changed my life.
OK, that sounds a little dramatic, but seriously, I’ve found Le Billon’s reflections on American food culture and how she compares it to French food culture straight up riveting. She is so spot on in the way she distinguishes between the two cultures, all the while sharing her story as an American woman living in a French coastal city (in Brittany actually!) with her French husband, and how she learned to cure her kids of their picky American eating habits.
What’s most interesting so far is learning through Le Billon about what French food culture actually MEANS. It’s not like, ‘oh the French love to eat weird stinky foods but they walk a lot so they’re always skinny,’ or ‘the Italians love to eat pasta and have big obscene dinners with every family member every single night’, or whatever misconceptions we carry about other food cultures. What’s eye-opening for me in reading this book is learning how French food culture is literally engrained in all things in France. It’s in their education system, it’s in their daily routine, it’s in peer pressure and social influence. It’s unspoken, yet everywhere.
Le Billon does a great job summarizing the unspoken “rules” of French food culture, 10 rules to be exact. She explains how these rules can be applied so that we as parents/parents-to-be can overcome our current food-related habits, which happen to be the root cause of so many food related issues that Americans face.
You’re probably asking yourself, is this book a food Bible? No. Will you fail as a human if you don’t memorize every single word and change everything about what you know about food? No. But it is crazy eye-opening, and really gets you thinking about how your “normal” food habits might be influencing your children.
In short, I recommend reading this book. You’ll love it, I promise.
IN UNDER AN HOUR?!?!?! Yeah, It caught my attention too!
Although truthfully you probably have to be pretty focused. My inner ADD child always pours out when I have to write about serious stuff. Anyway, I honestly thought this article was worth sharing, as creating a business plan can seem daunting and beyond scary, but the professional peeps over at Etsy have the best ways to make it easy. I promise!
Read the entire article here.
I don’t know about other bloggers, but let me tell you, I read a lot of blogs, and I love it! Reading blogs of all shapes and sizes was actually the primary reason I started this blog – I realized ‘Hey, I have a voice and creative ideas, too! Let’s do this!’
I used to be able to manage my list of daily reads pretty well, but I’m now at the point where all the space on my bookmarks toolbars in Mozilla, Internet Explorer, AND Chrome, are completely maxed out! I never cared or understood how to use Google Reader, and I didn’t think to research other reader alternatives, I was pretty satisfied with my morning routine clicking straight to the blogs I wanted to read in the same order, every single day. Talk about a creature of habit!
I don’t even know how I stumbled on it, it must have been a re-marketing campaign while perusing the internet, but I landed myself on NetVibes reading about their awarded personalized dashboard and thought ‘what the heck, let’s give this whole reader thing a try’. About two weeks ago I signed up for a free account I can’t tell you how much my life has changed. Having a real time feed of all the blogs I read in a day makes me feel like I have the entire internet all in one place. It’s more than amazing!
NetVibes has been around for a while, but it’s completely brand new to me. I’m still learning how to use it, but so far I’ve used 3 different views to read my daily blogs – the classic widget view (below), which is laid out in a tile board similar to Pinterest, and each tile lists the most recent 7 or so posts from each site.
I also like the current activity view, you can see all the posts that were published today
My new favorite view is the image tile view for all posts most currently published. I’m totally into this visual method of reading a feed!
OK, OK, so I’m fully aware that utilizing a reader is a no-brainer for most of you folks, which makes me wonder, how does everyone else read their favorite blogs? What readers do you use? Or do you prefer to click directly to sites? Do you keep a list of your favorite blogs? I’m so interested!
PS: if you’re curious about what blogs I read on a daily basis, I created this page dedicated to them for easy access. You can find the link to this page is on my right sidebar.
My man and I have spent the last month 100% focused on moving (and might I mention, into our OWN place), and the last two weeks physically moving into our new place. I think it's safe to say we are officially done and moved in! Last night was the first night in our new apartment. We still have a lot of adjusting to do, new routines for the pups, getting used to new noises, and dealing with all the light from our windows. Curtains are in store, ASAP.
As I look back on our move, the plans we made and the obstacles we faced, I thought it would be a great idea to put together a list of 10 tips to make your move as successful and painless as possible. Here we go:
Plan & Prioritize
My BF and I are both accountants, which means we're both A-type business-oriented budgeters and planners. We can easily take a situation and translate it into concise bullet points or a cost benefit analysis. When we first discussed moving out into our own place, back in January, our first step was to make a plan. Then, we discussed our plans with our roommates to make sure they were on board. We also set a goal for a move out date, drafted a budget and started saving.
I am well aware not everyone operates like we do. I've helped out plenty of family and friends who lack a move-out plan, and end up scrambling at the absolutely last second.
Thrifting is an obsession, it's an unquenchable thirst, or an itch you just can't seem to scratch. There are days when I just need to go out and dig through some junk, and yesterday was one of those days. I have a few secret spots by my office that I'll sneak off to during lunch, in hopes I'll come across another $6 french chair or some other pot of gold. There is what appears to be a junk yard a few blocks from my office, it's the same place where I found the set of antique dining chairs I restored.
Once you walk in, you're greeted with dozen of school chairs. Cute right?
Then, to the left, old toilets!
Happy Monday! I was a busy busy bee this weekend – took a trip to the airport to send my BF off to India for work (yikes!), celebrated my Dad's 50th birthday party yesterday (happy birthday dad!), and finished up a couple old projects that I had put on the back burner during the holidays. Somehow I found time to hit up the local gem show to restock my jewelry supplies that have dwindled down to nearly nothing the last few months.
(I took all photos with an iPhone, so please pardon the quality)
Let's talk jewelry supplies. There are many ways to stock up on jewelry supplies – you could go to a local bead shop, order supplies from an online retailer, order from auction sites like eBay, or attend a wholesale gem faire.
Each venue has it's perks and drawbacks. Local shops generally charge higher prices and have limited inventory, but you're able to "get it now". With online retailers and eBay, you have to pay for shipping and you're unable to get the tangible experience – touch the item or view the stone or gem in real light. Also, online retailers & eBay both have a much larger inventory and selection to choose from.
My preferred method of stocking up on jewelry supplies is to attend a gem faire. You have a selection of hundreds of vendors to choose from all under one roof. Some vendors sell similar items, like pearls and crystals, others sell unique and one of a kind items like gold or copper dipped leaves. You're more than likely to find the best prices at a gem faire, but it definitely takes a few dedicated hours to get through the entire show floor, which can be exhausting.
The Sonoma County Gem Faire is a scaled down version of the Bay Area show. My aunt and I were in dire need of supplies and we couldn't wait until April for the Bay Area show. I snapped a few pictures of the various vendors to give you an idea of what you'll find at a gem show…
Hello! Happy Saturday! Yes, It took me one week into 2012 to finally say good riddance to 2011, mainly due to work, but I'm here now and ready to shout out my resolutions for the New Year, and for all to hear! Here's to throwing that 2011 calendar away…
…to wiping the slate clean and starting fresh! It fascinates me how the start of a new year can encourage so much change in people's lives. We all have the habit of sticking to the same-old routine. But once the new year rolls around, we write down goals, change our diet, and resolve to being better, healthier, and happier selves! Let's cheer to the new-year-new-you, and encourage each other to reach our goals and change our lifestyles for the better.
I've split out my resolutions for 2012 into two sections – blog and personal – and I'd like to share both with the world! This should solidify my resolutions, no excuses, and will encourage and motivate myself to reach and attain these goals.
Happy Wednesday! While I'm choking and drowning in month/quarter/year end, I decided to come up for a little air and share this fantastic series I've been following this week. This series is hosted by 5 super-star bloggers. Each of these ladies has taken her blog and turned it into a successful business. It's so inspiring to see how far these bloggers have come! I love rummaging back in time and reading the super old posts on each of these blogs. I find a lot of comfort in it, knowing my blog will grow too! My photography will get better! My projects will be more unique and refined! And more readers will come!
Anyway, these gals are super inspiring, and they're so kind to share their tips and experiences and lend some advice on how to grow your blog…
Monday 1/2/12 – Authenticity & Blogging @ nesting place
Tuesday 1/3/12 – Making Money Blogging @ Thrifty Decor Chick
Wednesday 1/4/12 – Building a Community & Social Media @ tatertots & jello
Thursday 1/5/12 – Photography Tips @ Miss Mustard Seed
Friday 1/6/12 – Finding Balance @ Centsational Girl
Catch up on the 3 current posts, and follow the rest of the series tomorrow and Friday!
Have I mentioned I like to run? Well, I do, I loooove to run, and I have my favorite race coming up next week, the Big Sur Half Marathon in Monterey, CA. I ran the same race last year. The course was so incredible I've decided this race will be my annual race, regardless if I register for other races throughout the year.
I'm an average runner and I run at an average pace, about 8:30/mile, which is not fast by any means. It's average. My goal last year was to finish under 2 hours, which I did for the first time in my 5 years of running. I've set the same goal this year, although I'm not sure if I can beat last year's time of 1:56:19, but we'll see!
Here are some of the inspirational photos from last year's race:
images borrowed from The Big Sur Half Marathon 2010
The entire course is against the Monterey and Pacific Grove coast. The air is crisp and salty, and the waves are ginormous!