Hello....As we approach the holidays, identity theft becomes more prevalant. There are a few precautions that we can take to ward off these attacks on our privacy....
1. Use your work phone number on your checks instead of your home phone number. The less information that you can hand to people, the less chance you have of getting your identity stolen. If you feel comfortable using your work address on your checks, do that as well.
2. Don't sign the back of your credit cards. Instead, put "Photo ID required". If your cards do get stolen, and the cashier is alert, this may stop the bad guy in his tracks.
3. Keep a photocopy of your passport in a safe place - a safety deposit box or a very safe place in your home.
4. Empty your wallet contents, spread the cards across the photocopy machine and make a photocopy of every card in the wallet, including your drivers license. Then turn them all over and photocopy the backs. Keep the photocopies in a safe place in your home or in a safety deposit box. If your wallet is stolen, you will know immediately what cards must be replaced, and each card should have a phone number that you can call immediately to cancel. Time is of the essence if your cards are stolen - Before you even realize they are gone the bad guy will be using them in gas pumps at convenience stores. They know to use these cards immediately, and they know where to use them.
5. File a police report quickly, and do it in the jurisdiction where the theft occurred. You probably won't get your property recovered and there may not even be an investigation, but filing the report shows your credit card providers that you are serious and diligent and that you are doing all you can to minimize the damage.
6. Place a fraud alert on your name immediately. You have to call three national credit reporting companies to do this, but it is essential. After you file this alert, any company issuing new credit in your name has to call you for your permission first. I believe the free fraud alert lasts for 90 days, but I'm not sure about this. Here are the three numbers to call:
Trans Union - 1-800-680-7289
Equifax - 1-800-525-6285
Experian - 1-888-397-3742
7. Finally, call the Social Security Administration fraud line and report that your number may be used by a thief. 1-800-269-0271.
Be prepared, and hopefully you will never have to go through an identity theft.