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Avoid identity theft: An attorney's advice

Forwarded by Cari Carter-Aguilar, '03

A corporate attorney concerned with the increase of identity theft sent the following to all the employees of 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 they 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. When you are writing checks to pay on your credit card accounts, 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.

3. Put your work phone number 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 print your Social Security number on your checks. You can add it if it is necessary. But if you have it printed, anyone can get it.

4. Copy 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. Keep the photocopy in a safe place. Always carry a photocopy of your passport when you travel either here or abroad. We’ve all heard horror stories about fraud that’s committed when our name, address, Social Security number, credit cards, etc., are stolen.

You would think an attorney would know better, but I have firsthand knowledge because my wallet was stolen last month. Within a week, the thief (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 on-line, and more.

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 whom to call. Keep this information where you can find it easily.

2. File a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where your wallet was stolen. This proves to credit providers you were diligent, and is a first step toward an investigation.

3. Perhaps most important: Call the three national credit reporting organizations immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and Social Security number. Unless you alert them, any company that checks your credit won’t know your information was stolen. When you alert them, they have to call you to authorize any new credit. Call:

· Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
· Experian (formerly TRW): 1-888-397-3742
· Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289
· Social Security Administration fraud line: 800-269-0271

Editor’s note: We pass along jokes on the Internet; we pass along just about everything. Pass this information along. It could really help someone you care about. Save it: it might even help you.




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