Identity theft is now the crime of the new millennium. However credit card companies and different agencies are constantly working to try and prevent and keep any would-be criminals at bay. However, taking any precautionary measure should be an ultimate responsibility of each individual against this crime. Fortunately, there are some simple steps that can be followed, even today, to protect ourselves and prevent any identity theft from happening at all. Below are 11 recommended steps that anyone can follow, today, to prevent this from taking place or to reduce the effects if it has happened already.
There’s a list of telephone numbers at the end of this article everyone should keep.
- When ordering or buying something with a check, you never should you put your full name on them, only use your first initial and last name. This will make the checkbook useless in the hand of a thief because he will not know how you sign your checks. But, because your bank has a copy of your signature on file, it will and can stop the payment of checks with forged signatures.
- If you are a writing check to pay on your credit card accounts, DO NOT write down the whole account number on the “For” line. Reason is that your check passes through many hands, even at the credit card company or at the bank, anyone of which has access to all the information on your check, as well as your credit card number. Instead, write down only the last four digits of the account number, which is enough for the credit card company to recognize your account.
- Write down your WORK phone number on your checks instead of your home phone number. Likewise, if you also have an PO Box use that instead of your home address. If you do not have a PO Box, use your work address. With this, a thief cannot gain access to other accounts you have, some of which use the the name, address, telephone number combination for verification.
- DO NOT pre-print your social security or driver’s license numbers on your checks. You can add it, if necessary and as needed. But if printed, anyone could get it.
- Never sign the back of your credit cards. Instead, put “PHOTO ID REQUIRED” in the signature area or better still just leave it blank. To be really diligent, while paying, if the clerk doesn’t request for a photo ID, remind him of this and insist on showing it. It will teach them to be more active as well.
- Be vigilant. In rural areas, one of the ways a thief can steal your identity is through your mail delivery. Despite the fact that it’s a Federal crime to go into someone else’s mailbox, even to put something IN it, some people leave their mailboxes unattended for hours to several days after the mail arrives.
If any of your bill gets missing, especially a combination of utility and credit card bills, contact the companies immediately. With this thieves have been known to put in a “change of address” as they pay the minimum on a bill, then call immediately and have a new card issued with the new address, even a new name on a secondary bill. Within a week, the thief may be using your credit card without ANYTHING APPEARING TO HAVE BEEN STOLEN.
- When traveling abroad, go with a photocopy of your passport with you. If the original is stolen, you can take the copy to the local consul and prevent it from being used again.
- Make a photocopy of the entire contents of your wallet, including driver’s license, social security card both sides. Keep the copies in a safe place, should in case your wallet is lost or stolen, you have a quick inventory of what was in it. Write down the contact information for every company/agency with this copy– the earlier you can report the theft, the better.
If you they have the combination of your SSN and Driv Lic, as well as your credit card information and address, they can do more than just making purchases. They can also get MORE credit cards, clone them, make major purchases, such as cars, even apply for bank loans– using your details. Remember, the earlier the better.
- Even your online identities should be protected, especially your email address that you use on individual websites. Spammers make use of robots/softwares to surf the internet for email addresses like these, then insert your email address in the “from” section of their Spam, in this manner, avoiding detection or causing the complaints to be directed to you. They make use of this information as the contact email for fraudulent sales, such as in auction sites like eBay. There are free programs available (such as the scrambler at acme-web-hosting.com) that will scramble the email addresses on websites.
PROTECTION, POST THREAT
If or when your credit cards or checkbook are lost or stolen there are several things you can take to reduce the severity of the theft. Most of all, the faster you act, the less you will suffer. Identity thieves know they are working against the clock and will dispose your information as soon as they sense that the theft has been detected. If you’re very vigilant, you may escape with little or no damage.
- Call the 3 national credit reporting organizations (these telephone numbers are listed below) immediately 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 or charges.
- File a police report immediately within the jurisdiction where your wallet was stolen. This proves to credit providers you were diligent, and this is a first step toward an investigation (if there ever is one).
- Inform the credit card companies and your bank personally.
- Register with an identity theft prevention service that has a good reputation. Don’t assume that one is just enough because your credit card company has some protection available. This just protects your account with THEM. These companies only need the necessary information from you and, just with one call, most or all of the steps, above, will be handled by them.
Below are the contact numbers you’d need When your wallet is lost. The lastt three are the major credit agencies, and the first is the fraud line at the Social Security Administration. They may need your driver’s license and passport.
- Social Security Administration (fraud line): 1-800-269-0271
- Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
- Experian (formerly TRW): 1-888-397-3742
- Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289