Today, though, safety is a big priority, especially when it comes to our finances and identity. There are so many people out there wanting to steal them from us and from the people we love. That's why it is so important to safeguard your identity and take some serious precautions!
I've gathered a few of the top tips on how you can protect yourself and your loved ones.
1. Do not sign the back of your credit card or debit card ~ instead, put where your signature should be "PHOTO ID REQUIRED." I can't begin to tell you the number of clerks or cashiers who have NOT looked to see if my signature was there or asked to see that I was the person whose name was on the card. You should also encourage them to ask for your ID.
2. When you are writing checks to pay on your credit card accounts, DO NOT put the complete account number on the 'For' or 'Memo' line. Instead, just put the last four digits. 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 or cell phone number on your checks instead of your land line 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. There are few, if any, businesses who need your Social Security number, but if you have it printed, anyone can get it.
4. Place the contents of your wallet on a photocopy machine and copy them. Do both sides of each license, credit card, etc. If your wallet is stolen, you will know what you had in it and all of the account numbers and phone numbers to call and cancel. Keep the photocopy in a safe place. Carry a photocopy of your passport when you travel either here or abroad and keep it separate from your other identification.
5. We have been told that we should cancel our credit cards immediately if they get stolen, 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. That's why you photocopy each of them and keep that in a safe place.
6. File a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where your credit cards, etc., were stolen. This proves to credit providers that you were diligent, and this is a first step toward an investigation (if there ever is one).
7. But here's what is perhaps most important of all (I never even thought to do this): call the 3 national credit reporting organizations immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and also call the Social Security fraud line number. I had never heard of doing that before. 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.
Here are the numbers you always need to contact about your wallet contents if it has been stolen:
- 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
Protecting your identity and those of your loved ones should be a top priority. It doesn't take a lot of time to do these simple steps, but you have to make the effort. Putting it off may just be one of the worst mistakes you could ever make.
Protect yourself today!