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Very useful info  Justina Toombs
 May 22, 2003 08:44 PDT 

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The next time you order checks have only your initials (instead of first name) and last name put on them. If someone takes your check book 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.

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.

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.

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, etc. Unfortunately I, an attorney, 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:

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 easily.

File a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where it was stolen, this proves to credit providers you were diligent, and is a first step toward an investigation (if there ever is one).

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

Call the three national credit reporting organizations immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and Social Security 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 in their tracks.

The numbers are:
Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
Experian (formerly TRW): 1-888-397-3742
Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289

Social Security Administration (fraud line):
1-800-269-0271




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<DIV><FONT lang=0 face=Arial color=#004080 size=4 FAMILY="SANSSERIF"><B>The
next  time you order checks have only your initials (instead of first name)
and  last name put on them. If someone takes your check book 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. <BR><BR>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. <BR><BR>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. <BR><BR>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. <BR><BR>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. <BR><BR>Keep the photocopy in a safe  place. I also carry a
photocopy of my passport when I travel either here or  abroad.
<BR><BR>We've all heard horror stories about fraud that's committed  on us
in stealing a name, address, Social Security number, credit cards,  etc.
Unfortunately I, an attorney, 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. <BR><BR>But  here's
some critical information to limit the damage in case this happens to  you
or someone you know: <BR><BR>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 easily. <BR><BR>File a police report immediately in the  jurisdiction
where it was stolen, this proves to credit providers you were  diligent,
and is a first step toward an investigation (if there ever is  one).
<BR><BR>But here's what is perhaps most important: (I never even  thought
to do this). <BR><BR>Call the three national credit reporting 
organizations immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and Social 
Security 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. <BR><BR>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 in their tracks.
<BR><BR>The  numbers are: <BR>Equifax: 1-800-525-6285 <BR>Experian
(formerly TRW):  1-888-397-3742 <BR>Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289
<BR><BR>Social Security  Administration (fraud line): <BR>1-800-269-0271
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