I'm sure most of you know all this but I'd never thought of copying my wallet contents and I didn't know about the Social Security hotline.
Some of these won't be applicable to non USA visitors but some would.
Here are the tips, just as she sent them.
ATTORNEY'S ADVICE -- NO CHARGE
A corporate attorney sent the following out to the employees in his company.
1. Do not sign the back of your credit cards. Instead, put "PHOTO ID
Note: Monday 11:15 p.m. There's a difference of opinion on this one. Check with the issuer or your local bank.
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 # 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.
(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.
Keep the photocopy in a safe place. I also carry a photocopy of my passport
when I travel either here or abroad. We've all heard horror stories about
fraud that's committed on us in stealing a name, address, Social Security
number, credit cards.
Unfortunately, I, (the author) have firsthand knowledge because my wallet
was stolen last month. Within a week, the thieve(s) 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:
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., were stolen. This proves to credit providers you were
diligent, and this is a first step toward an investigation (if there ever
But here's what is perhaps most important of all: (I never even thought to
7. Call the 3 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 an application for credit was made over the Internet in my 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 I 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 I knew about before
placing the alert. Since then, no additional damage has been done, and the
thieves threw my wallet away this weekend (someone turned it in). It seems
to have stopped them dead in their tracks.
Now, here are the numbers you always need to contact about your wallet,
etc., has been 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
Since I posted this, a couple of commenters have recommended shredding documents and one pointed out (thanks Emma) that the bank will do it for you. Her entire comment is worth reading - she worked in the banking business.
If I get any other tips, I'll add them.
Update: A lot of good tips in the comments as well.