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Tools to help you protect yourself!


It seems to be in the news every day. Identity theft is on the rise. According to the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft has been the number one fraud complaint in recent years. An identity thief can take your personal information and use it without your knowledge. The thief may run up debts or even commit crimes in your name. With so much at risk, here are some helpful tips to protect yourself, as provided by a corporate attorney to employees at his company:

  1. The next time you order checks, have only your initials (instead of first name) and last name put on them. If someone takes your checkbook, he or she 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 your credit card accounts, DO NOT put the complete account number on the "For" line. Instead, just put the last four digits. The credit card company knows the rest of the number.

  4. 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, anyone can get it.

  5. 5. Photocopy both sides of your driver’s license, all your credit cards, etc. That way you will know what you had in your wallet and all of the account numbers and phone numbers will be in one place should you need them. Also, carry a photocopy of your passport when you travel abroad (but don’t keep it in the same place as the original).

Unfortunately, the corporate attorney who provided the information in this article has firsthand knowledge because his wallet was stolen. 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 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:

  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 who 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 ever is one).

But here's what is perhaps most important of all:

  1. Call the three national credit reporting organizations immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and Social Security number. Our attorney friend had never heard of doing that until advised by a bank that called to tell him an application for credit was made over the Internet in his 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 he 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 he knew about before placing the alert. Since then, no additional damage has been done, and the thieves threw his wallet away.

  • For your convenience, the credit report organizations’ numbers are listed below:

  • Equifax

  • Direct line for reporting suspected fraud:

  • 1-800-525-6285

  • Experian

  • Direct line for reporting suspected fraud:

  • 1-888-397-3742

  • Trans Union

  • Direct line for reporting suspected fraud:

  • 1-800-680-7289


Important Hotlines!

Numbers you need to contact when your wallet or purse has been stolen are:

  • Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
  • Experian (formerly TRW):
  • Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289
  • Social Security Administration (fraud line): 1-800-269-0271
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Fight Back!

Take Charge PDF
Learn how to fight back against Identity Theft with this comprehensive booklet from the FTC.
Click to download PDF