We've all heard the horror stories about someone getting their wallet or purse stolen and within a week, the thieve(s) ordered an expensive monthly cell phone package, applied for a MasterCard or Visa, had a credit line approved to buy a new computer, received a PIN number from DMV to change their driving record information online, and more. But there is a way to limit the damage, frustration and inconvenience in case this happens to you or someone you know.
Place the contents of your wallet or purse on a photocopy machine. Copy both sides of your license, credit card(s), etc. By doing so you will know what you had in your wallet and all of the account numbers and phone numbers to call in order to cancel them. Keep the photocopies in a safe place.
Cancel your credit cards immediately. But the key to doing this is having the toll free numbers and your card numbers handy so you know whom to call. So don't forget to copy all of the information in your wallet or purse so that this can accomplished without calling around and getting voice messages or incompetent staff that will ask you stupid question like "what your account number is." Keep all of this information where you can find it at a later date if needed.
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).
And most important of all: 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. 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 of the organizations mentioned above along with the Social Security fraud line number.
1.) Equifax: 800-525-6285
2.) Experian (formerly TRW): 888-397-3742
3.) Trans Union : 800-680 7289
4.) Social Security Administration (fraud line): 800-269-0271
Other aggressive ideas and suggestions to prevent identity theft are as follows:
Do not sign the back of your credit cards. Instead, put "PHOTO ID REQUIRED."
When writing a check to pay on your credit card account, 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.
Put your work phone # 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 SS# printed on your checks.
Please feel free to pass this information along to your family and friends.
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