Question: I already know that fights about money are a major reason why marriages go to hell. So before I proposed to my girlfriend at Thanksgiving — in front of her family, which was cool — we sat down and reviewed our finances.
Turns out, we’re good. She’s got a few grand on her credit cards but nothing else except a car loan. I got $12,000 left on my student loans, but I cut my payments with one of your programs.
Here’s the thing, though: Over the holidays, she got hacked. Her identity got stolen. And I just learned it’s happened, like, four or five times before! It’s her fault, too. Her passwords are all, “me123” (with “me” being her name). She uses public wifi in coffee bars to pay her bills, and she clicks on attachments in her email even when they’re from people she doesn’t know.
She’s lost hundreds of dollars in these hacks and says she’s gonna change. But she still hasn’t changed a single password. I’m afraid to marry and spend lots of time and money dealing with this stuff. What can I do to make her understand? This is really bugging me, because it’s such an easy thing to fix but she won’t do it, not even for me and our future.
— Juan in Arizona
Howard Dvorkin CPA answers…
I completely understand your frustration, Juan. In fact, I’m even more upset than you are. You’re angry at your fiancee, while I’m mad at the world.
Just a few months ago, Debt.com reported how ID Theft Is More Common Because We’re More Lazy. “Americans aren’t doing enough to protect themselves from getting identities stolen,” we concluded after studying the latest research.
Sadly, that wasn’t breaking news. In 2014, we wrote, Identity theft is probably your fault, and in 2013, we wrote, Who is to blame for identity theft? Look in the mirror.
Just this month, the University of Phoenix released another study on the topic. It pretty much describes your fiancee…
- 52 percent of U.S. adults “are willing to overlook cybersecurity risks for the sake of convenience.”
- “60 percent use open Wi-Fi networks even though they don’t trust them — because “the convenience of using the unsecured network outweighed any potential risk.”
So what can you do? I can’t give you a perfect solution, Juan. Why? Because sadly, the most effective solution to being careless on the Internet is to become a victim of identity theft. In my experience, the cost in hours and dollars is so steep, most people vow, “Never again will I ignore Internet security.”
Unfortunately, your fiancee has been a victim many times, yet the hard lessons haven’t sunk in. So I have two suggestions.
First, before you marry, you need to agree: You’re in charge of the finances until she can adhere to the basics of Internet security. That means no joint credit or debit cards, and only you have access to online banking. She can (and should) view that information, but she shouldn’t be able to log on without you.
Second, you may want to buy a service like LifeLock. Debt.com offers its own version called IdentityIQ, which does the same thing for slightly less. These protection services not only alert you to bad things, they offer insurance if something bad does happen. Check them out, and I really hope your fiancee doesn’t let her sloppy web habits torpedo a lifetime of happiness.
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Email your question to firstname.lastname@example.org and Howard Dvorkin will review it. Dvorkin is a CPA, chairman of Debt.com, and author of two personal finance books, Credit Hell: How to Dig Yourself Out of Debt and Power Up: Taking Charge of Your Financial Destiny.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and/or policies of Debt.com.