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Good advice...

How to Protect Yourself from Fraud


by Frank Rhode

Next time you order checks have only your initials (instead of first name) and last name put on them, if someone takes your check book they will not know if you sign your checks with just your initials or your first name but your bank will know how you sign your checks. Put your work phone # 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 SS# printed on your checks. You can add it if it is necessary but have it printed and anyone can get it. 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 safe place. A corporate attorney sent this out to the employees in his company. I pass it along, for your information.

We've all heard horror stories about fraud that's committed in stealing a name, address, Social Security, credit cards, etc.

Unfortunately, I, an attorney, have firsthand knowledge because my wallet was stolen last month. Within a week, the thieve(s) 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: We have been told we should cancel your 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 easily.

File a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where it was stolen, this proves to credit providers you were diligent, and is a first step toward an investigation (if there ever is one).

But here's what is perhaps most important (I never ever thought to do this): Call the three national credit reporting organizations immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and Social Security 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 have to contact you by phone to authorize new credit. By the time I was advised to do 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 then, no additional damage has been done, and the thieves threw my wallet away this weekend (someone turned it in). It seems to have stopped them in their tracks.

The numbers are: Equifax: 1-800-525-6285 Experian (formerly TRW): 1-888-397-3742 Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289 Social Security Administration (fraud line): 1-800-269-0271

We pass along jokes; we pass along just about everything. Do think about passing this information along. It could really help someone you care about.

Frank Rhode

NOTE: In Florida you can stop credit card offers by calling 1-888.567.8688. FDLE has an excellent site on this problem at http://www.fdle.state.fl.us

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