We have all heard about the dangers of identity theft. It is a crime that can go unseen and occur within seconds, but the ramifications could be felt throughout the rest of your life. Unfortunately, most people aren’t even aware that their identity has been stolen until it’s too late. Identity Theft may go undiscovered for weeks, months, or years, only to be revealed in the midst of buying a car, a home, applying for a loan, just to name a few. Basically, think of the time you’d least want to have financial troubles, and those are the times identity theft can come to light. However, there are ways in which we can protect ourselves. Following are 7 tips that we can all do to protect ourselves…..
- Do not sign the back of your credit cards. Instead put “PHOTO ID REQUIRED.”
- 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. This will prevent anyone who might handle your check from having unnecessary access to your account.
- Put your work phone number on your checks instead of your home phone number. Also, use a PO Box address if applicable, and NEVER have your Social Security Number printed on your checks.
- Make sure to keep a photocopy of all the important documents you keep in your wallet somewhere safe. Copy both sides of each license and credit card, as the back side is where all of the contact/reporting information is located. In case of an emergency you will be able to call and cancel all your credit cards, and will still be able to have proof of ID.
- Keep the toll free numbers to your bank and credit cards handy so that you may inform your companies and have your cards cancelled IMMEDIATELY. The sooner you call, the more damage you can prevent.
- File a police report IMMEDIATELY in the jurisdiction where your credit cards, etc, were stolen.
- Call the 3 national credit reporting organizations IMMEDIATELY to place a fraud alert on your name. Also call the Social Security fraud line 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.
When it comes to reporting Identity Theft time is of the essence. The faster you report a stolen wallet, purse, or mail, the more likely you are to prevent or decrease the damage from occurring. Along with the phone numbers for your bank and credit card companies, you will also need the phone numbers for the 3 credit reporting agencies and the social security administration. For your convenience we have provided those numbers below.
- 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