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Bob Meyer

Beyond The Limits Of Cash or Credit

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An Attorney�s Free Advice For Credit Safety

A corporate attorney sent the following out to the employees in his company:

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 check. 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 post office box, use that instead of your home address. If you do not have a box, use your work address.

4) Never have your Social Security number printed on your checks. (DUH!) You can add it if necessary. But if you have It printed, anyone can get it.

5) Place the contents of your wallet on 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 safe place.

As an attorney, I also carry a photocopy of my passport when I travel either here or abroad. We�ve all heard horror stories about fraud that�s committed on us in stealing a name, address, Social Security number, credit cards, etc.

Unfortunately, I have firsthand knowledge because my wallet was stolen recently. Within a week, the thieves ordered an expensive monthly cell phone package, applied for a VISA credit card, had a credit line approved to buy a Gateway computer, received a PIN number from DMV to change my driving record information online, and more.

But here's some critical information to limit the damage in case this happens to you or someone you know:

6) The key to canceling your credit cards immediately is having the toll free numbers and your card numbers handy. Keep that information where you can find it, and use it quickly.

7) File a police report as soon as possible in the jurisdiction where your credit cards or wallet were stolen. This proves to credit providers you were diligent. And this is a first step toward an investigation ... if there ever is one.

But here's what is perhaps most important of all:

8) Call the three national credit reporting organizations immediately, to place a �fraud alert� on your name. Also call the Social Security fraud line number. (I had never heard of doing that until advised by a bank that called to tell me an application for credit was made over the Internet in my name.)

The alert means any company that checks your credit knows your information was stolen, and they are required to contact you by phone to authorize new credit.

By the time I was advised of this, almost two weeks after the theft, all the damage had been done. There are records of all the credit checks initiated by the thieves� purchases, none of which I knew about before placing the alert. Since filing the reports, no additional damage was done. The thieves threw my wallet away shortly thereafter (someone turned it in). It seems to have stopped them dead in their tracks.

Here are the numbers you will need to contact if your wallet has been stolen:

         Equifax: 800-525-6285, 800-525-6285

         Experian (formerly TRW): 888-397-3742 , 888-397-3742

         Trans Union: 800-680 7289, 800-680 7289

         Social Security (fraud line): 800-269-0271, 800-269-0271

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