Identity Theft Prevention
Learn How to Protect Your ID
Identity theft can happen in what seems like the blink of an eye. While my sister was sitting in a restaurant having dinner with her husband last year, someone slipped her wallet out of her purse, which had been hanging from the back of her chair. Before my sister has finished her dinner, she was already the victim of credit card identity theft. Several thousand dollars in merchandise had been charged to her credit cards. In addition, my sister lost all the cash in her wallet, and had to deal with stolen ID, as well as replacing the credit cards and other items in her wallet. This incident forced everyone in our family to realize how important it is to take certain steps to protect ourselves from identity theft in the future. Below you will find the steps you need to take to protect your identity, too.
Prepare in Advance for Identity Theft Protection
People are occasionally robbed and frequently misplace their things. This is just a matter of being realistic. As a result, it is important to prepare well in advance for the possibility that you could lose your wallet or have it stolen. The most important step you can take to protect yourself from identity theft is to take everything out of your wallet, lay it on a copy machine, and make two copies of everything you carry in your wallet. Keep one copy in a safe place in your home. Put the other copy in the carry-on luggage that you use when you travel. This way, even on a trip, if you are robbed you will know exactly what your wallet contained. Next to the photocopied credit and debit cards, write the toll free phone numbers you should call to report lost or stolen credit cards.
In addition, only carry necessary items with you. If you rarely use certain credit cards or department store charge cards, keep them in a safe place at home until you need them. This goes for your Social Security card, too. Memorize your social security number, and don’t carry your card with you all the time. It will be one less thing to report in the event that you are robbed.
You will get more ideas for preparing in advance and similar issues in the Amazon book: "Identity Theft for Dummies."
Avoid Stolen ID by Protecting Our Wallets
The next step to protect yourself from identity theft is to carry your wallet in a way that decreases the chances that you will be robbed. Do not set your purse on the floor or hang it on the back of a chair in a restaurant. It is now stylish to buy little decorative hooks that you can carry in your handbag. When in a restaurant, you can hang the hook over the edge of the table, and hang your purse from it. Your purse will be handy, and within your line of vision at all times.
When walking with a purse, do not let it lay against your back. Pull it in front of you. Once, in Paris, I pushed my bag onto my back so that I could lean over the table of a sidewalk vendor. A French woman approached me, tapped me on the shoulder, and moved my purse in front of me. She realized that I was leaving myself vulnerable to having someone reach into my purse and steal the contents. I really appreciated her thoughtfulness. I am much more careful today.
Men are often advised to carry their wallets in the inside pocket of a jacket, or in their front pants pocket, rather than a back pocket. They are much less likely to be approached from the front than they are from the back.
What to do if You are the Victim of Identity Theft
If, despite your best efforts to take precautions, you are still robbed, you must take action as soon as possible. According to the Feberal Federal Citizen Information Center, here are the steps you need to take:
Take the list of items that were contained in your wallet, and begin canceling all your credit and debit cards immediately. Let your bank know that your wallet was lost or stolen, and ask that they send you replacement debit or credit cards with new account numbers.
If you were robbed, file a police report.
Contact your state’s department of motor vehicles, and request that they send you a new copy of your driver’s license. In many states, you can handle this request over the phone, making it unnecessary for you to go into the DMV office. Anytime you have a stolen ID, it is important to get it replaced quickly. It is difficult to travel, cash a check, or engage in many routine business transactions without the proper identification. In addition, you don’t want to be caught driving without your driver’s license.
Contact the three major credit reporting companies. All of them have a fraud department and they will put an alert on your name and social security number. At your request, they will also agree to let you know before anyone opens a line of credit in your name. Here are their contact phone numbers:
Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289
You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each of them each year. You may want to wait a month, and then contact them again to make sure that there has been no illicit activity on your account.
If your Social Security card was in your wallet, you can call your local office of the Social Security Administration and request a new card. However, in the future, you would be wise to keep your number memorized, and not carry it in your wallet.
If you were also carrying other items, such as club membership cards, video rental cards, etc., you will have to contact each company individually and have them replaced. However, in most cases, these are the least important items you will need to deal with. If you have prepared in advance, made copies of all these cards, and jotted down their phone numbers, you will save a lot of time.
If you are interested in reading other articles about ways to protect your possessions and personal safety, as well as that of your family, you may also be interested in the following articles:
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Everything You Need to Know about Identity Theft
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(price as of Jul 4, 2014)