Combating Identity Theft
Identity theft is a crime that is increasing in frequency and scope and has ruined the lives of
thousands of people. This is a crime though not considered violent in nature, or a priority by law
enforcement officials, can cost you everything you have acquired up until this point in your life
and everything you could ever have had. It can also take you decades to straighten out.
For this reason we have seen numerous knee jerk legislative bills proposed and passed by our
elected officials in Washington, frequently referred to as Privacy Legislation, which are nothing
more than band aid solutions, having minimal effect on the real roots of the problem.
There are some things you can do to help protect yourself from becoming a victim of Identity
Theft, but like everything else, there is NO realistic, foolproof solution.
- The next time you order checks, have your first initial and last name (instead of your first
name) put on them. If someone takes your checkbook they will not know if you are a
man or woman or sign your checks with just your initials or your first name but your bank
- 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 number on your checks instead of your home phone. If you have a
PO Box use that instead of your home address. Never have your SS number or birth date
printed on your checks (DUH!), you can add it if it is necessary. If you have it printed,
anyone can get it.
- Be stingy about what information you give out over the phone. Don’t believe everyone
who calls you saying they need to verify information or passwords on your account.
Actually this should set off alarms in your head!!!! No reputable company should call
asking for that information, they already have it.
- Never give the four-digit number, located on the signature strip on the back of your credit
card. That four-digit number authorizes anyone to use your card for phone or Internet
- When making purchases with your card, try to not let the card out of your site during the
transaction and be especially watchful if the employee waves your card under the counter
or briefly turns their back to you with your card for no apparent reason. They may be
swiping your card in what is called a “skimmer,’ which is a card reader similar to the one
used to authorize your payment for the transaction, except this device stores your
information, which is later retrieved to make a duplicate credit card, which they sell on
the black market.
- 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 fireproof safe or safety deposit box. Also carry a photocopy of
your passport when traveling either here or abroad.
- And lastly; buy a paper shredder and shred all mail and documents with your personal
information on it before placing them in the trash. As an alternative you can burn your
documents in you’re bar-b-que grill. The point is to totally destroy them!
We've all heard horror stories about frauds that are committed against us by stealing a name,
address, Social Security number, credit cards, etc.
Unfortunately I, have firsthand knowledge, regarding Identity Theft because my Social Security
Number was stolen a couple of years ago. To this day, I still don’t know how they got it, because
I’m pretty careful with my information. Fortunately for me, a week after the thieves had opened
a bank account in my name, OVER THE PHONE, the credit card company issuing a credit card
in my name questioned the different addresses between the card and my credit report, and
stopped the transaction until I could be questioned regarding the discrepancy. (Thank GOD.)
Within a month, the thieve(s) had opened a bank account over the phone in Georgia, applied for
the credit card, ordered an expensive monthly cell phone package with four phones in the
northeast United States, had a credit line approved to buy a Gateway computer, placed the order
and had it delivered, wrote a hot check in Georgia and the local law enforcement officials did
nothing, even when I provided them with names and addresses where the thieves were having
It’s not totally their fault; your local police are overwhelmed with violent crimes against persons,
not enough manpower, and have the endless bureaucracies inherent in government jobs to deal
But here's some critical information you need to know 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, which you should. But the
key is having the toll free numbers and your card numbers handy so you know whom to call
when you need to cancel. Keep those where you can find them easily.
Remember the copies??- File a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where your cards
were stolen, this proves to credit providers you were diligent, and this is the first step toward in
conducting an investigation (if there ever is one).
But, here's what is perhaps most important. To stop further damage:
Call the three national credit-reporting organizations immediately to place a fraud alert on
your name and Social Security number.
The alert means any company that checks your credit knows your information was stolen and
they must contact you by phone, at what ever number you choose, to authorize new credit or
purchases. This is also a big hassle for you when you are trying to make a large purchase or
applying for credit and having to explain the whole situation to the company you are trying to do
If the situation is extremely bad, you may want to consider having another social security number
issued to you, but beware; this may cause more problems, as your Social Security number is tied
to your Social Security and Medicare Retirement Benefits Accounts. You will also be in the
position of having to start all over establishing credit in your name, which usually means having
to put down large deposits and paying higher interest rates.
Regardless of what you decide to do regarding credit and a new Social Security Number, you
absolutely must contact the three credit reporting agencies to notify them of the identity theft
Contact Information for the three credit reporting agencies are:
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374
Experian (formerly TRW): 1-888-397-3742
701 Experian Parkway PO Box 2002
Allen, TX 75013
Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289
2 Baldwin Place, PO Box 1000
Chester, PA 19022
Social Security Administration (fraud line): 1-800-269-0271