I met a friend yesterday who told me that his identity was stolen a few weeks ago. Then a friend’s daughter from Cleveland told me the same thing. I too was a victim of identity theft a few years ago. The thief changed my address and charged 20K to my card. Not a pleasant experience. The bank seemed to think it was my fault. I had to file an affidavit that I had not stolen my own credit card!! Recently, I was at a gas station when I noticed the customer in front of me open their wallet and had their social security card and driver’s license on either side of their wallet in all its shiny glory! I have read recent reports that affluent consumers and people with excellent credit could be at higher risk for identity theft. So here are my thoughts on the subject of what to do and how to prevent it.
Of course, please do not carry your social security (SS) card in your wallet, nor a copy of the card. If your SS # has been lifted, get a new SS # from the Agency. See Social security and Identity Theft, for more information on this subject. Don’t write your PIN number on your check cards. Find a number you can remember and memorize it. Don’t use your birthdate or your anniversary or your children’s birthdays as PIN numbers. Thieves find these easy to locate. Make photocopies of your credit cards. If your wallet is stolen or your identity stolen, make a police complaint and obtain the complaint number. Report it to the credit reporting agencies at Experian fraud alert, Equifax, and Transunion. Their phone numbers are Phone: 800-525-6285 or: 404-885-8000 (Equifax); and Phone: 888-397-3742 (Experian) and Phone: 800-680-7289 (Transunion). In general, a fraud alert for 90 days or 7 years is a good start to prevent further thefts or even to prevent one. You can also freeze your credit, so that no one including you can open a new credit card or other line of credit without alerting you. Your financial institution also has paid services to alert you to changes. If you are going out-of-town, don’t alert your followers on Twitter, Facebook and other social media! Thieves are followers too! Military active duty personnel can make an active duty fraud alert posted to their file. File a security alert or victim statement with all national credit bureaus; inform each creditor, document all the contacts (names, telephone numbers, dates, times, subject/details of your talk with the creditor’s representative). Every creditor has a different process, so make sure you understand what is expected of you. Above all make a note of the details. Follow up on the phone calls and keep the notes in a file so that you can monitor your credit cards and accounts when a new fraud shows up. You can add an Extended Fraud Victim Alert to your report by submitting a copy of a valid identity theft report that you have filed with a Federal, State or local law enforcement agency. An Extended Alert will remain on your report for seven years. When you get mail, shred or tear up credit card solicitations, review your credit report every 6 months, pay attention to your credit card transactions, do not leave your mail unattended in a public place, keep track of when statements arrive, better yet, let your statements come to your email inbox. Don’t give out personal information over the phone, and don’t list your phone number. Electronic: Install firewalls and internet anti virus software, don’t open emails from unknown senders, don’t use public computers to search your personal email accounts and bank accounts. Change your passwords periodically. At work, avoid leaving your handbag or wallet on your desk or unsecured, sensitive documents like bank and pay stubs should not be placed in plain view for all to see. Above all, do not send your social security number over email.
Be safe, and see you in my next post.
Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Attorney at Law
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.
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