|Volume LIV||May 2007||Number 2|
Identity Theft: It Could Happen to You
When it comes to protecting your identity, you can never be too safe. As fast as experts ascertain ways to prevent identity theft, criminals think up innovative methods of stealing your most personal information.
Luckily, a new state law was passed enabling consumers to place a freeze on their credit file in the event your identity is stolen. A freeze stops anyone from opening any new accounts under your name or Social Security number. Just send a written request via certified mail to each of the three major credit bureaus (listed below). The request will cost you $10.
This new law adds a little bit of comfort, but there is more you can do before and after you become a victim of identity theft. Here are some tips, courtesy of Bro. William H. Humphries III, Esq., a member of our Outreach Program's COMPASS Panel of Attorneys, and the Federal Trade Commission's Web site, www.ftc.gov:
1. When you are writing checks to pay credit card bills, do not include the complete account number on the memo line. Writing just the last four digits is enough for the company to match with your name and properly apply. This technique will prevent anyone who may handle your check along the processing channels from accessing your entire account number. Do not have your Social Security number printed on your checks.
2. If you believe your purse, wallet or credit cards were stolen, file a police report and call the Social Security Administration fraud line at (800) 269-0271. You can also contact the three credit card bureaus: Equifax, P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241, (800) 525-6285; Experian, P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013, (888) 397-3742; and TransUnion, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790, (800) 680-7289. A call alone will not freeze your file. They will place a fraud alert on your name, which means any company checking your credit will know your information was stolen.
3. Make a photocopy of all credit cards and licenses in your wallet or purse; front and back. Keep the photocopy in a secure location. In the event anything is stolen, you'll have the phone numbers to call in order to cancel your credit cards, and your account numbers will be easily accessible. You'll want to contact the Department of Motor Vehicles also, as someone who steals your driver's license may try to have your records changed.
4. Merchants should check the back of your credit card for a signature every time your make a purchase, so for extra protection you can write "Photo ID Required" instead of signing it.
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