As indicated in our initial chapter on Identity Theft, Practical Protection Tips, all of us have heard of the serious ramifications when thieves gain access to one’s identity for purposes of achieving credit or gaining access to assets. Not only does one face the danger of theft of one’s own resources, but one may spend weeks, sometimes months, clearing up the stains on one’s credit caused by the activities of the miscreants.
This article shall expand on various practical and simple safeguards one can utilize to minimize that danger.
1. Do not sign the back of your credit cards. Instead, put "PHOTO ID REQUIRED."
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 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. Also carry a photocopy of your passport when you 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. A lawyer known to the writer had the following experience which is a good lesson to all of us.
His wallet was stolen and within a week, the thieve(S) 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 his driving record information online, and more.
5. Remedies may not be as straight forward as one thinks. Keep the following in mind: We have often 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 quickly.
6. File a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where your credit cards, etc., were stolen. This proves to Credit providers you were diligent, and this is a first step toward an Investigation (if there ever is one).
7. But here's what is perhaps most important of all: Call the 3 national credit reporting organizations Immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and also call the Social Security fraud line number. This can help stop the danger that arises should an application for credit be made over the Internet in your 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.
Here are the numbers you always need to contact about your wallet, etc., has been stolen:
1.) Equifax: 800-525-6285
2.) Experian (formerly TRW): 888-397-3742
3.) Trans Union: 800-6807289
4.) Social Security Administration (fraud line):800-269-0271
It will happen to you. The steps above should be as automatic in protecting your own assets as locking your front door when you leave for work in the morning. It is hand in hand with the convenience that we have achieved with internet shopping and ATMs….for every benefit there is a corresponding risk and need to alter one’s actions. Credit Theft protection is no exception to that rule.