Dear Black Bag Confidential Reader,
One question people ask me all the time is what identity theft protection service I recommend. In this week’s mailbag, I’ll explain my surprising answer.
You’ll also discover how to protect your home from roving gangs of looters, stop receiving unwanted phone calls and covertly carry cash when you travel.
Here we go…
Do you recommend any identity theft protection services?
— Greg C.
Personally, I do not recommend using an identity theft protection service. I believe you can do the same things they do without having to pay a company to do them.
That being said, I absolutely recommend placing a freeze on your credit report with each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). I also suggest monitoring your credit report, bank statements and credit card statements. You should do this on a monthly basis so you can detect any signs of fraud.
Another thing I recommend is carrying an RFID-blocker in your wallet such as the Hack Shield. This portable identity shield forms an electronic barrier around your cards, making them — and your personal data — invisible to identity thieves.
Now, I realize a lot of people like the peace of mind offered by identity theft protection companies. I’m not saying they are a bad idea, but the fact is they don’t do anything you can’t do on your own.
I just read about three web browsers you recommend for optimum security. The article said two of the three browsers work on a platform similar to Firefox. Well, I use Firefox. How does that compare with the three browsers mentioned? If two of the browsers work like Firefox, why not critique Firefox also so we know if we should switch from Firefox to one of the other two or stay with Firefox? Also, what do you think about Opera?
— John M.
The three web browsers I mentioned (Tor, Brave and Waterfox) all have enhanced security features to protect data stored locally in your web browser — including your browsing habits, online purchases and bank information.
The fact is company-owned browsers such as Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Microsoft Edge all pose privacy concerns. So if you are looking for a more secure web browser, I suggest downloading one of the three I mentioned. They work similar to Firefox, but offer better protection.
As for Opera, I haven’t personally used this browser, but I do know that it has a built-in VPN — so that’s an added bonus. It also has an ad blocker and it allows you to erase personal information after you enter it on a website.
Are there any extra EDC items you recommend carrying now that the weather has gotten warmer? Anything I can leave at home?
— Chuck B.
My EDC items stay pretty consistent throughout the year. The only difference is the fact that I might adjust the placement of my EDC gear depending on the clothes I’m wearing.
For example, in the summer when I’m wearing shorts, I might carry my .380 in my pocket instead of the full-size firearm I carry in the winter because it’s easier to conceal.
The same goes for the knives I carry — I might switch them around depending on what I’m wearing. But overall, I typically carry the same gear all year round.
I don’t know how to protect my house should an event occur where there would be roving gangs or whatever. I have a wood (cedar) house, several patio doors and 13 windows. It is a single-story home. Anyone with an ax could get in if they wanted to. There are only two of us in the home, which I don’t think would be enough to prevent entry.
— Darlene K.
One of the first things I recommend doing is installing an alarm system. This may not stop someone from coming into your home, but at least it will warn you of the threat.
There are many other security measures you can put in place such as cameras, security doors, window screens, motion sensors, glass-break sensors, etc. But in the end, you need to have a plan in place to defend yourself. This should include a firearm (or, even better, several firearms). A roving gang will think twice about breaking in if you have an AR-15 to defend your home.
I also recommend setting up a specific room in your home as a safe room. If riots or looting are occurring in your area, you could hole up in this room with your survival gear and self-defense weapons.
I keep getting scammy phone calls — sometimes up to 10 a day! How do I make it stop? Do I have to change my number?
— Amy S.
I suggest contacting your cellphone or landline service provider to ask if they have any way to block scam phone calls. Most cellphone carriers offer some type of scam blocker, but they might charge you a small fee to enable this service. If the calls are coming from the same phone number, you could simply block that number.
What’s the best way to carry cash when you travel? How much?
— Marvin P.
When traveling, I recommend using a wallet you can hide inside your waistband such as the Shacke Hidden Travel Belt Wallet, which sells for about $15 on Amazon. This wallet attaches to your belt and hangs inside your pants so it’s nearly impossible for anyone to get to. Plus, it comes lined with RFID anti-theft material to protect your credit cards and passport.
Stay away from the wallets that you wear around your neck. These are easy for thieves to spot and they can simply cut them off your neck and run.
As for how much cash to carry, I always recommend having at least $300 in cash on you — one $100 bill, several $20 bills and a few smaller denominations.
Carrying cold, hard cash has gotten me out of a lot of jams and made my life much easier. If you travel overseas, you’d be crazy not to carry cash on you for emergencies. The fact is if you are in a dire situation, giving someone a $100 bill will certainly motivate them to help you.