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Identity Theft Prevention

Identity Theft Prevention

This is a memo from an in-house corporate attorney to the employees of a large corporation:

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 check with just your initials or your first name but your bank will know how you sign your checks.  Editor's note:  I was a check casher for a payday loan company and we cash all the customers checks at the local banks instead of depositing them.  When you tried to cash these checks, the first thing the banks and credit unions would do would be to pull the signature cards.  Deposited checks are scanned by machines and signature line can be blank because the optical readers and magnetic scanners only don't look at the signature line.

Put your work phone number on your checks instead of your home phone.  If you have a post office 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 (DUH!) - you can add it if necessary.  But if you have it printed, anyone can get it.

Place the contents of you 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.  I also carry a photocopy in a safe place.  I also carry a photocopy of my passport when I 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, etc. (identity theft).

Unfortunately I, an attorney, have firsthand knowledge because my wallet was stolen last month.  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 my 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 our credit cards immediately.  But the key is have the toll free numbers and your cards 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 is perhaps most important:  (I never even thought to do this)

Call the three national credit reporting organizations immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and Social Security number.  I had never heard of doing that until advised by a bank that called to tell me an application for credit was made over the Internet in my name.  The alert means any company that checks your credit know your information was stolen and they have to contact you by phone to authorize new credit.

By the time I was advised to do this, almost two weeks after the theft, all the damage had been done.  There are records of all the credit checks initiated by the thieves' purchases, none of which I knew about before placing the alert.  Since then, no additional damage has been done, and the thieves threw my wallet away this weekend (someone turned it in).  It seems to have stopped them in their tracks.

The numbers are:

Equifax:  1-800-525-6285

Experian (formerly TRW):  1-888-397-3742

Trans Union:  1-800-680-7289

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

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