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Free Citizen

This writer espouses individual liberty, free markets, and limited government.

Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Protect Yourself Against Fraud!

A corporate attorney reportedly sent the following out to the employees in his company:

(1) Do not sign the backs of your credit cards. Instead, put 'PHOTO ID REQUIRED.'

(2) When writing a check to pay on your credit card account, DO NOT put the complete card account number on the 'For' line. Instead, just put the last four digits. 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.

(3) Put your work phone number on your checks instead of your home phone number. If you have a post office box, use that instead of your home address. If you do not have a post office box, use your work address. Never have your social security number printed on your checks (DUH!). You can add it if it is necessary, but if you have it printed, anyone can get it.

(4) Place the contents of your 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, if necessary. Keep the photocopy in a safe place. I also carry a photocopy of my passport when I travel either in the U. S. or abroad. We've all heard horror stories about fraud that is committed when someone's name, address, social security number, credit cards, etc., are stolen.

Unfortunately, I, an attorney, have firsthand knowledge of fraud because my wallet was stolen recently. Within a week, the thief (or 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 the Department of Motor Vehicles 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:

(5) 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.

(6) File a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where your credit cards, etc., are stolen. This proves to credit providers that you are diligent, and this is the first step toward an investigation (if there ever is one).

But here's what is perhaps most important of all (I never even thought to do this):

(7) Call the three national credit reporting organizations immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and also call the Social Security fraud line number. I had never heard of doing that until advised by a bank that called to tell me that an application for credit was made over the Internet in my name. Having these alerts in place means any company that checks your credit learns that your information has been stolen, and they have to contact you by phone to authorize any new credit.

By the time I was advised to do this-- almost two weeks after the theft occurred-- all the damage had already been done. There are records of all the credit checks prompted by the thieves' purchases, none of which I knew about before placing the alerts. Since then, no additional damage has been done to me, and the thieves threw my wallet away shortly afterward (someone turned it in). The alerts seem to have stopped the crooks dead in their tracks.

Now, here are the contact numbers you will need in case your wallet is 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

~~ Author unknown


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