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Free advice on identity theft

3/8/2005
Read this and make a copy for your files in case you need to refer to it someday. Maybe we should all take some of his advice!

A corporate attorney sent the following memo on preventing identity theft to his employees:

1. The next time you order checks, have only your initials and last name put on them. If someone takes your checkbook, 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. Do not sign the back of your credit cards. Instead, put “PHOTO ID REQUIRED.”

3. 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.

4. Put your work telephone number on your checks instead of your home phone. If you have a P.O. box, use that instead of your home address. If you do not have a P.O. box, use your work address. Never have your Social Security number printed on your checks. You can add it if it is necessary. But if you have it printed, anyone can get it.

5. Place the contents of your wallet on a photocopy machine. Copy 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 here or abroad.

If your purse or wallet is stolen:
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.

2. 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 is one).

3. Call the three national credit-reporting organizations to place a fraud alert on your name and Social Security number. 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 if your wallet, etc., has been stolen:

1.) Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
2.) Experian (formerly TRW): 1-888-397-3742
3.) Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289
4.) Social Security Administration (fraud line): 1-800-269-0271