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identity theft, identity theft & fraud, credit cards

Protecting Yourself Against Identity Theft and Fraud 

A corporate attorney sent the following out to the employees in his company. We pass this information along to you:

1. The next time you order checks have only your initials (instead of
first name) and last name put on them. If someone takes your check book they will not know if you sign your checks with just your initials or
your first name but your bank will know how you sign your checks.

2. When you are writing checks to pay on your credit card accounts, DO
NOT put the complete account number on the "For" line. Instead, just put the last four numbers. The credit card company knows the rest of the
number and anyone who might be handling your check as it passes through all the check processing channels won't have access to it.

3. Put your work phone # on your checks instead of your home phone. If
you have a PO Box use that instead of your home address. If you do not
have a PO Box, use your work address. Never have your SS# printed on your checks. You can add it if it is necessary, but resist requests to do so if possible; it is rarely needed. But if you have it printed, anyone can get it.

4. Place the contents of your wallet on a photocopy machine, do both
sides of each license, credit card, etc. You will know what you had in
your wallet and all of the account numbers and phone numbers to call and cancel. Keep the photocopy in a safe place. I also carry a photocopy of my passport when I travel either here or abroad. We've all heard horror stories about fraud that's committed on us in stealing a name, address, Social Security number, credit cards, etc.

Unfortunately I, an attorney, have firsthand knowledge because my wallet
was stolen last month. Within a week, the thieves ordered an expensive
monthly cell phone package, applied for a VISA credit card, had a credit
line approved to buy a Gateway computer, received a PIN number from DMV to change my driving record information online, and more.

But here's some critical information to limit the damage in case this
happens to you or someone you know:

1. We have been told we should cancel our credit cards immediately.
But the key is having the toll free numbers and your card numbers handy
so you know whom to call. Keep those where you can find them easily.

2. File a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where it was
stolen, this proves to credit providers you were diligent, and is a
first step toward an investigation (if there ever is one). But here's
what is perhaps most important:

3. Call the three national credit reporting organizations immediately
to place a fraud alert on your name and Social Security number. I had
never heard of doing that until advised by a bank that called to tell me
an application for credit was made over the Internet in my name. The
alert means any company that checks your credit knows your information
was stolen and they have to contact you by phone to authorize new
credit. By the time I was advised to do this, almost two weeks after the
theft, all the damage had been done.

There are records of all the credit checks initiated by the thieves'
purchases, none of which I knew about before placing the alert. Since
then, no additional damage has been done, and the thieves threw my wallet away this weekend (someone turned it in). It seems to have stopped them in their tracks.

The numbers are:
Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
Experian (formerly TRW): 1-888-397-3742
Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289
Social Security Administration (fraud line): 1-800-269-0271

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