We had a prowler here the other day.
I was changing Sidekick in our bedroom when I saw a flash of movement by one of the high windows next to our bed. Too tall to be any sort of animal. Ever the expert denialist, I shrugged. “I must be imagining things,” I thought. “Maybe it's a bird?” Then Kracken started losing it, barking up a storm at our back door. Why on earth do we have a door leading directly into our bedroom…and why can't I ever remember if I locked it?? I flew into a frenzy of action, sprinting around with my wailing baby and slamming locks shut left and right. I tore through the toddler's room, shotgun cocked, desperate to secure the huge window that a person could easily crawl through. The sprawling acreage out here, the high fence encircling our property. It all suddenly felt like a cage more than a buffer. Why am I home alone right now?? Where is everyone? I eventually took up residence in our living room, staring in horror at the darkened panes at the front of our illuminated house. I was like a fish in a bowl. Kracken continued to snarl and bark and growl for what felt like an eternity as I shuttered blinds and flipped locks with a dexterity I didn't know I possessed. Oma and Opa showed up long before the Deputy Sheriff, running circles around the house and sending the Danes to scare off whoever or whatever had dared to enter our gate and trudge up the long driveway to our home.
“Maybe it was just a deranged owl…or a bat?” I pondered aloud. Opa laughed. A scared laugh, but a very recognizable sort of snicker preserved for whenever I say something ridiculous. I hear that laugh often.
The deputy suggested that it was probably a tweaker, looking for something to hawk for drugs. Particularly during tax season, thieves like to steal personal information to file taxes and receive tax refunds in another person's name. We installed more security lights the next day. Any valuables and personal documents we had laying out (hello, tax returns) were placed carefully back in the safe.
The experience got me thinking back to a conversation I had with the previous owner. “We've never had anyone break in,” she said, “But people have stolen our mail. And I wouldn't put any valuables in the sheds.” I was paying half-attention at the time, rather undaunted by any security problems these country folk may have. Nate and I lived in the ghetto before this. No joke. We watched a drug deal go wrong across from our old apartment. Our neighbor beat his roommate with a bat before burning his entire house down. Coming from that to this quaint rural life, I wasn't particularly concerned about people messing with our mailbox or creeping around our tool shed.
Obviously, I was wrong. There's a whole different kind of danger out here in the country, where people have less money and a lot more time on their hands. There's a different kind of desperation, a bolder, sneakier sort of crime.
I remember when I was a teenager and we lived on a tiny, isolated little island in Washington. My stepdad was so protective of his personal information. He had a locking file cabinet, which my sister and I thought was ridiculous. “Who's going to steal your personal information out here?” we laughed. “Paranoid much?” He explained that in hard times, people would use whatever they could get their hands on. Even if our valuables were secured and insured, our personal information wasn't. People could steal our identities and pretend to be us, accessing our bank accounts and racking up credit card debt in our names. I thought the whole idea of identity theft was ridiculous, until it happened to me in college. What a headache.
I thought it was ridiculous that anyone would mess with us out here…until it happened. I didn't even know that mail theft was an issue, until the previous owners of our home confessed that it happened to them.
Paranoid? Maybe. But sometimes it takes a wake up call like this to remind you that a little bit of paranoia is justified. If you haven't assessed your home safety and document security recently, tax season is a great time to check up on these things! Install a mailbox with a lock to keep predators from wreaking havoc on your personal life. Keep valuables and personal documents in a safe or online guarded by a password. And file your taxes over the internet instead of risking having your personal information compromised through the mail. For more information about identity theft and to look into options to monitor potential child identity theft for your children, check out Identity Guard.
This post is sponsored by Identity Guard. All opinions are my own.