Here are some tips to prevent identity theft and how to deal with it if it happens to you:
* The next time you order checks have only your initials (instead of your first name) and last name printed on them. If someone takes your checkbook 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.
* When you are writing checks to pay on your credit card accounts, DO NOT put the complete account number on the “For” line. 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.
* Put your work phone number on your checks instead of your home phone. If you have a PO Box use that instead of your home address. Never have your Social Security Number printed on your checks. You can write it in if it becomes necessary. But if you have it printed, anyone can get it.
* Place the contents of your wallet on a photocopy machine, and copy 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.
* Carry a photocopy of your passport with you when you travel abroad.
* We have been told we should cancel our 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 the first step toward an investigation (if there ever is one).
* Call the three national credit reporting organizations (Experian, Equifax, Trans Union) immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and Social Security number. 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.