Tuesday, September 18, 2012

How can I prepare for ID theft or credit card fraud?

My answer to this question unfortunately comes from personal experience!  We've all heard the horror stories of ID and credit card theft  -- if not personally, at least on the news.  Credit card theft actually happened to me twice in the past few months. Thankfully, I caught it quickly and I've been educating myself on things I can do to be better prepared to help lessen the damage if it happens again.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) shares the steps we can take to help stop ID and credit card theft:

More things to do:
  • Write "PHOTO ID REQUIRED" in permanent marker on the back of your credit cards in the signature box.
  • When ordering your checks, print only your initials and last name in the upper left corner. If someone takes your checkbook, they will not know if you sign your checks with just your initials or  your full first name, but your bank will know..
  • 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.
  • When paying your credit card bills with a check, do not put your complete account number on the memo line.  Draw a few dashes or asterisks (*) followed by the last four digits of your account. The credit card company knows the rest of the number and you've now eliminated the possibility of anyone stealing your number who might be handling your check as it passes through all the check processing channels.
Limit the damage:
  • Copy both sides of your license and credit cards that you keep in your wallet.  If you lose your wallet or it's stolen, you will quickly know what was in it and have all the account numbers and contact numbers in one place so you can call and cancel them. Keep the photocopy in  a safe place (not in your wallet!).  File a police report in the jurisdiction where your cards were stolen. This proves to credit providers you were diligent, and this is a first step toward an investigation. 
  • Cancel your credit cards immediately using the copies you made with all the information for the cards on it.
  • Call the three national credit reporting companies and the Social Security Administration fraud line immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and SS 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.
    • Equifax:  1-800-525-6285
    • Experian: 1-888-397-3742
    • Trans  Union: 1-800-680-7289
    • Social Security Administration Fraud Line:  1-800-269-0271
To learn more about protecting your identify visit the FTC ID Theft page here where you can order free copies of knowing what to do.  

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