PROTECTING YOUR CREDIT AND PREVENTING IDENTITY THEFT!

We've all heard horror stories about fraud that's committed in stealing a name, address, Social Security, credit cards, etc.

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.  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 on the check, anyone can get it. most states have laws that don't allow merchants to ask for this information as a condition of cashing a check. Your driver's license and another form of ID should be enough.

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.  A corporate attorney sent this out to the employees in his company.

An attorney friend of mine , has firsthand knowledge of what can happen when your identity is stolen, because his wallet was stolen recently.
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 his 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:  We have been told we should cancel your 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.

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: (And, most people never think to do this) Call the three national credit reporting organizations immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and Social Security number. Don't wait until you are advised by your bank that an application for credit was 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.

By the time my attorney friend asked for my advise and was told to do this (almost two weeks after the theft), all the damage had been done.

There were records of all the credit checks initiated by the thieves' purchases, none of which he knew about before placing the alert. Since then, no additional damage has been done, and the thieves threw his wallet away and someone turned it in.  Just making that report has stopped the thieves in their tracks.


 The numbers for the credit bureaus are:

Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
Experian (formerly TRW): 1-888-397-3742
Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289

AND

Social Security Administration (fraud line): 1-800-269-0271