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Monday, June 19, 2006

Identity Theft - Update - again

My former neighbor, who has provided some of the funny stories I post from time to time has sent me something serious for a change.

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.


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
is one).

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

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.


Tammy said...

Wow...that's some great info!
Thanx for sharing!

Autumn said...

I don't have any credit cards. So no one can steal them. If they want a check they can have it. I don't keep enough in the account for them to buy more than a few groceries. As far as my Soical Security number. Let them be me. They will be begging me to take it back after they live my life for awhile, and who knows maybe I can get a better life in return (Laughing)
Seriously that is a good post. One that most people don't think about. Glad to see some information passed on. I hope you enjoy your day.

Desert Darlyn said...

Wow, that's a great idea to copy the contents of my wallet! Don't have any phone # printed on our checks and only give it when required.

We have Identity Theft Protection thru Discover and they alert me by email if anything happens with my accounts or SS#, but having the copies is a great idea!

Krupo said...

I'd rather someone steal the CC than bank info; CC's have pretty good fraud protection, whereas I've seen bad service on that front from banks.

As for "photo ID required", the cool thing is that some banks are now introducing CCs with built-in photo IDs. I want one. :)

JBlue said...

Good advice. My credit card company told me to sign my name and add CID after it (See ID). They said it's best not to leave it blank. Amazing how many people don't even look, so I point it out. Maybe they'll get in the habit.

Good idea about the photocopies!

I think credit cards do offer more protection, as Krupo pointed out.

JBlue said...

Oh, and our state used to use our SSN's for our Drivers' License number and still will if you don't opt out of it, which I do. I also don't provide my children's SSN's to anyone but the IRS, although it seems like more and more peops are asking for them (doctors, schools, etc.).

PEA said...

Thanks so much for sharing this with us...if we photocopied everything in our wallet, it would make it so much easier to know what we've lost if ever our wallet is stolen. So many times your mind goes blank when asked what was in it...I have so much stuff in mine, I'd never remember it all off hand! lol

The June Cleaver Diaries said...

Great advice! Thanks so much! I'm notorius for losing things (I'm currently looking for my lost wedding ring. Again.)so this really helps.

EmmaSometimes said...

good stuff granny!!

I have to add!

SHRED everything you don't use including pre approval offers. Take them to your bank, most will shred for you if you don't own one yourself.

also TransUnion online can contact the other two agencies for you (at least this was the case a year ago)

It does annoy me that Social Security Cards are considered public record. NO JOKE. That's why banks do not take these as ID.

Most banks can also give you a password to withdrawl funds and also put limits per day on your debit card (your credit card company can do this too!)

I had to add to the list. I worked in banks and in securities for years but these are GREAT tips Granny!

jw said...

Photocopy everything in your wallet and/or purse, but notice that some cards don't copy well, so you may need to hand write some information.

About not signing the back of credit cards. When, as a merchant, I last set up a merchant account for Visa and Master Card the agreement said that every time I accepted a card for payment I was supposed to check for signatures and refuse those without signatures. Thus, if you don't sign the back you could be refused if the merchant is following the agreement that they signed. (K-mart is the only place that has ever given me a hard time about a missing signature.)

Marsha said...

what a very infomative post. I actually had a friend at work have her identity stolen. It has been anightmare for her. Unfortunately all of her information was in her car in the visor. Her car was stolen which is how the theives were able to steal her identity

EmmaSometimes said...

Granny, you didn't sound know it all-ish or condescending at all. This is good stuff and I wish I thought to post this first. hehehe.

I forgot to add and jublu and JW brought it up: Who wants your signature signed by the thief on the back of your blank credit card?? Then the signatures will REALLY match.

mo-wo said...

Yeah some good ideas here, thanks.

Gina said...

I also have a friend who went through hell trying to fight the woman who stole her identity. She actually had to prove to them that SHE was the real "Jane Doe" and not the other woman. Crazy!

It makes me shudder to think that not very long ago, the university I attended used our SSN's as our student identification number. It was all over everything, our ID cards, everything!

Atasha said...

Good post Ann. Someone also sent this to me a few weeks ago and I never even thought to post it. Shamefully I still haven't made copies of anything. Maybe it's because the majority of cards in my wallet are membership cards for parks, the library, the Zoo and museums...HA...They'd be sooo mad. Must make a note to myself to get going on this thing. Afterall Kinkos is right around the corner.

I too remember when I was in college my SSN was my student ID number. Didn't even think about all this then.

Missy said...

From the website (Social Security Administration):

"You should be very careful about sharing your number and card to protect against misuse of your number. Giving your number is voluntary even when you are asked for the number directly. If requested, you should ask:

* Why your number is needed;
* How your number will be used;
* What happens if you refuse; and
* What law requires you to give your number.

The answers to these questions can help you decide if you want to give your Social Security number. The decision is yours."

That said, doctor's offices, daycare, schools, etc, do not need your social security number. If they ask, ask why they need it and/or whether alternate identification can be used. I think the only people that need it, for the Patriot Act, are banks and the gov't.

ipodmomma said...

very interesting...

thanks! I especially like the bit about keeping all the numbers handy...

thordora said...

They're welcome to my identity. It will get them to about the end of the street.

That's the ONLY good thing about bad credit. The other stuff rarely leaves the house.

I've seen a TON of resumes in my time with the SIN number of the bearer on it (our SSD number). Why in HELL would you do that??!?

Sothis said...

Hi Granny--I've worked in computer security for banks, and I have a few more:

-never carry your Social Security card or even a copy of it in your wallet (keep in in a home safe or a safe deposit box.

-NEVER answer an email from your "bank" asking you to log into a web site to check your account for any reason. Banks never do that! They are hackers "phishing" for your account number and pin. Report it to your bank immediately (more bank web sites have an address for reporting fraudulent emails).

-If you have ID (other than SS card) that uses your SS number, demand another number. I think all states are now capable of issuing their own numbers for a driver's license.

-Try to keep your mother's maiden name as secret as possible (stupidly, this is still considered a form of password!)

-Contact both your State level and National level reps and senators to demand that identity theft be treated as a real crime and press for a national registry to block access to credit (being fought by the credit card companies). Press for fines for lenders that keep issuing credit to individuals with fraud alerts on their credit reports. The thieves couldn't do it without the compliance of the lenders.

Ava said...

We had someone at a restaurant steal our credit card information. They still used the "old" machine that swiped the card manually using carbons. Thankfully our bank recognized it as an unusual purchase at an unusual place at an unusual time and placed a hold on our card. Meanwhile, I went to Walmart and the card wouldn't work. When I got home there was a message from the bank. Thankfully we got ours resolved without a single penny going through.


stefanierj said...

Someone stole my friend's ATM card and emptied his SAVINGS as well as his checking account, so now I have my bank restrict transfers from savings to checking so that it can only be done over the phone. It's a pain in cases where I need to get money out of savings from the ATM, but the extra hassle is worth it to me.

If you use PayPal, check back with them on a fairly regular basis to make sure no one has hacked your account. A blogger friend ( had $500 stolen from her checking account via PayPal fraud. The thief even intercepted PayPal emails through her husband's email. Scary!!

Great post, Ann. I'm so glad you've got our backs on this one!

Irene said...

This is wonderful information. We do not have credit cards, we no not carry our SS cards in our wallet and we are always after our college age daughter not to carry her debit card with her. Three years ago when she signed up for community college I was absolutely floored that her SS # was her ID. Thankfully that Fall they switched away from that but it made me very nervous. I had my wallet stolen a number of years ago, but there was nothing in it except my drivers liscense and library card and maybe a dollar. The guy called me (I did have an info card with my phone number on it) saying he had "found" it and wanted to know how much I'd pay him to get it back. I flat out told him that he should return it out of the goodness of his heart because there was nothing in there worth anything considering I had already been to DMV to get a new DL. He hung up on me. It is a very scary world we live in now in the "information age" and we can not be too careful. Thanks for posting these tips.