Quote of the Day - The particular human chain we're part of is central to our individual identity.
1. The next time you order checks have only your initials (instead of your first and middle names) and last name put on them. If someone takes your checkbook, then 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 your credit card accounts, don't list the complete account number on the "Memo" 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 (or afterward) won't have access to it.
3. Put your work phone number on your checks instead of your home phone. If you have a P.O. Box, then use that address instead of your actual home address. If you don't have a P.O. Box, then use your work address. Never print your social security number on your checks. You can add it if it is absolutely necessary, but it's not a good idea. If you have it printed, anyone can get it.
4. Place the contents of your wallet on a photocopy machine. Copy both sides of each license, credit card, and the rest of its contents. That way, you'll know what you had in your wallet and all of the account and phone numbers to call and cancel your cards if you need to. Keep the photocopies in a safe place. You should also carry a photocopy of your passport while traveling, and store it separate from your luggage.
Here's some critical information to limit the damage in case identity theft happens to you or someone you know:
1. Cancel your credit cards immediately. 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.
2. File a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where your credit cards, etc., were stolen. This report proves to credit providers you were diligent, and this is a first step toward an investigation (if there ever is one).
But, here's what is perhaps most important of all:
3. Call the three national credit reporting organizations immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and Social Security number. The alert means any company that checks your credit knows your identifying information was stolen, and they should contact you by phone to authorize new credit.
Here are the numbers you need to contact when your wallet, etc., has been stolen:
1.) Equifax: 888-766-0008. This company has a host of identify theft advice, and lots of links.
2.) Experian (formerly TRW): 888-397-3742. But do more. Experian says fraud alerts must be submitted in writing.
3.) TransUnion: 800-680-7289. This company also provides an entire Fraud page dedicated to helping you in the event your identity is stolen.
4.) Social Security Administration (fraud line): 877-438-4338. The SSA also has some more identity theft advice.
Last week was National Consumer Protection Week, but it's never too late to learn how to protect yourself.
Do you know where your wallet is?