I think most of us can agree that computers and advances in technology have made our lives so much easier. From Google, to GPS, to online bill pay, and ‘the cloud’…it’s all great! But unfortunately, it has made things easier for criminals too. Over the years, identity fraud has been a growing industry in America, with a new person being victimized every two seconds. It has reached such massive proportions that in 2013 alone; 1.6 Billion dollars were lost due to fraudulent activities, according to the Federal Trade Commission. With personal information being stored in numerous locations, it’s not uncommon for your information to end up in the wrong hands from a simple mistake. But there are always things you can do to protect yourself. Consider following these attorney recommended tips and tricks to avoid becoming a victim:
- When writing a check to pay off your credit cards, never give the full account number. It makes it too easy for someone to take your info and use it online. Instead, use the last four digits of your account number. The credit card company can fill in the blanks.
- For an extra level of security, instead of signing the back of your credit cards, print “Photo ID Required”.
- Be cautious about what you print on your checks. Many people give their phone, address and some even print their social security number on their checks! This can lead to trouble. Use your work number instead of home and a P.O Box instead of your address when possible. Leave your SSN off entirely.
- Make backup copies of everything in your wallet. The easiest and fastest way is to use a scanner or photocopier. Get an image of both sides of every card you own. That way if your wallet is ever lost or stolen, you know exactly what was in it and can cancel things quickly.
- If you plan on doing any traveling, it is always a good idea to pack a photocopy of your passport as well. You are especially vulnerable to theft and fraud when you are abroad so a backup copy is the perfect safety net.
What should you do if your identity or wallet has already been stolen?
In order to limit the amount of damage you and your loved ones could suffer, you should:
- Cancel all of your credit cards as soon as you find out about the theft. Use your photocopies from the tips above to reference the toll free numbers and your card numbers.
- Go to the jurisdiction where your cards were stolen and file a police report. It is the first step in an official investigation and it shows that you, as the card holders, are on the ball.
- Call the three national credit reporting agencies to put a fraud alert on your name and then do the same for your social security number. This will stop anyone from using your card without having them call you first for verification. You can find the contact information for these organizations below :
- Equifax: 1-800-525-6285 and 1-800-525-6285
- Trans Union : 1-800-680-7289 and 1-800-680 7289
- Experian: 1-888-397-3742 and 1-888-397-3742
- Social Security Administration: 1-800-269-0271
Spread the word about these tips to your friends and family. Hopefully, they will never need to take the last three actions but if they do, this information could make a huge difference. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us!