Identity theft increased by 79% between 2002 and 2003
In the latest Gartner Group study, taken in July 2003, the prominent think tank found that there was a 79 percent increase in identity theft in the past year alone.
You’re not alone!
1. Do not sign the back of your credit cards. Instead, put 'PHOTO ID REQUIRED'.
2. When you are writing checks to pay on your credit card accounts, DO NOT put the complete account number on the 'Memo' 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.
3. 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. If you do not have a PO Box, use your work address. Never have your social security number printed on your checks.
4. Keep a list of the credit cards that are in your wallet. List each company and the toll free number listed on the back of the card. This information will be invaluable if your wallet is ever stolen and you have to call every company to report the theft. Don’t list the card numbers on this paper. Put it in a safe place so you will have it to reference. If necessary, list only the last 4 numbers, the credit card company will be able to access your account without the complete number.
You cannot completely prevent theft, but here's some critical information to limit the damage in case this happens to you or someone you know:
5. We have been told we should cancel our credit cards immediately. But the key is having the toll free numbers and your card numbers handy so you know whom to call. Keep those where you can find them.
6. File a Police Report immediately in the jurisdiction where your credit cards, etc., were lost or stolen. This proves to credit providers you were diligent, and this is a first step toward an investigation (if there ever is one). Local law enforcement is not always excited or as diligent as they should be when it comes to investigating identity theft and fraud as it is in writing traffic citations.
But here's what is perhaps most important of all:
7. Call the 3 National Credit Reporting agencies (NCR) immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and 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.
Remember, be “proactive” protecting yourself from identity theft and potential credit problems. Don’t forget there is no charge to get a current credit report each year “Free of Charge”. Simply go to this link: https://www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/order
Now, here are the phone numbers you will need to contact the three main reporting agencies should your wallet be stolen (or missing) and you have a concern about your identity being compromised.
1.) Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
2.) Experian (formerly TRW): 1-888-397-3742
3.) Trans Union: 1-800-680 7289
4.) Social Security Administration (fraud line): 1-800-269-0271 or 1-877-438-4338
For additional resources please visit this non-profit site: http://www.idtheftcenter.org/map.html