too long ago, I traded in my carefree apartment
living lifestyle for a mortgage in the burbs.
Just as the United States Post Office recommends,
my husband and I filled out our change of address
cards and promptly put them in the mail two weeks
before our move. After all, we had almost 30 days
between residences to ensure all the mail flowed
in the right direction. With all the free credit
card offers we receive on almost a daily basis,
we wanted to be sure all our mail safely reached
our new home.
after doing everything by the book, imagine our
surprise when our account was drained by thousands
of dollars. We didn't realize it until we received
our first bank statement no signs
of forced entry were abound to alert us otherwise.
Shortly thereafter, we learned that the bank's
automated system, which we were told updates our
new address for our checks, sent 400 checks to
our old address. Apparently, the new occupants
were having a field day with our checks.
was more than a year and a half ago and the culprits
are still writing on the account. The irony of
this story is we meticulously shred documents,
we cancel credit cards on a schedule, we've even
written about identity theft. How could this happen
they say, it's the little things that count. Simple
items like double checking with the check printing
company to ensure they have the correct address.
And other things like not including personal information,
such as driver's license numbers or social security
numbers, on checks. Since then, the thieves have
obtained fake IDs in both our names
luckily we didn't have our real numbers imprinted
on the checks! The police officer assigned to
our case told us that, most likely, once these
individuals blow through our checks, they will
start counterfeiting check stock with our information.
we continue to send affidavits of fraud to every
check security company that notifies us of yet
another one of these gems. The attorneys for these
companies tell us we may be doing this for years.
be a victim of identity theft this
is a billion dollar industry for criminals and
it robs you of much more than productivity and
performance on the job. Follow these 10 guidelines
to keep an eye on what belongs to you.
- Guard your name and identification like
they are gold. Everyone from estranged spouses
to roommates can use your good credit and identity
by having just a few pieces of relevant information,
such as a driver's license number, social security
number or credit card accounts. They use tactics
such as stealing wallets, digging through your
trash and stealing your mail to obtain access
to your information. These shrewd criminals
commonly change your address to a post office
box so they can intercept mail.
- Know where your information is and manage
it. Identity thieves can gain access to
your vital credit information legally at the
local courthouse if you are recently divorced
and your filings contained credit card or social
security numbers or other personal information.
Take care to keep your information out of easy-access
- Guard company data. Many credit card
offenders steal identities by securing a position
within a company where he or she has access
to employee databases. One recent case proved
that identify theft was as simple as saving
a company's employee roster, including social
security numbers, to a disk and walking away.
Put security systems in place to guard employee
identities in your company. Fine-tuned internal
controls can greatly reduce the chance of this
- Put up your guard. Use your work phone
number or cell 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 post office box, use your
work address, if permitted. Never imprint your
social security or driver's license number on
your checks - you can add it if it is necessary,
but know that in many retail situations, it
is your right to deny this information.
- Plan for the worst. Place the contents
of your wallet on a photocopy machine; include
both sides of each license, credit card, etc.
This provides a record of what is in your wallet
in the case of theft or loss. You will have
all account numbers and phone numbers to call
and cancel. Keep the photocopy in a safe place.
- Leave home without it. Unless you are
going for your first day of employment or need
to get a duplicate birth certificate, the chances
of actually needing your social security card
are slim to none. Better to leave this at home
in a safe place until you really need it. This
is one card you don't want to fall in the wrong
- Fax anyone? The health industry is
making it easier to steal a social security
number. Often, the primary card holder's social
security number is the member number. While
it doesn't make sense to forgo carrying your
card, you can fax your new doctor ahead of time
and carry a photocopy of your card with the
number blacked out - just in case of emergency.
The real card can stay at home with your social
- Check in often. The best strategy is
a proactive one. Many options are available
to check your credit report often to ensure
there isn't any fraudulent activity on your
account. One gentleman found that thieves opened
more than 40 accounts before he found out about
- Just say no. If you have great credit,
chances are you get a LOT of those preapproved
credit card offers in the mail. To stop these
from filling your mailbox, simply contact the
company and ask that they not contact you through
the mail. Many companies contact current clients
through email or phone calls. You always have
a choice, so feel free to say, "no!"
- It happened…now what? 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). Call
the three national credit reporting organizations
immediately to place a fraud alert on your name
and Social Security number. 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 hope you never have to endure the agony of
having your identity stolen. This is a growing
crime against our currency-shy country. To learn
more about how to protect your good name, visit
This site offers forms and step-by-step instructions
on how to handle identity theft.