(And Best Practices to Keep from Becoming One!)

"Every kind of peaceful cooperation among men is primarily
based on mutual trust and only secondarily on institutions
such as courts of justice and police."

- Albert Einstein

      The Federal Trade Commission receives complaints online at the FTC website.    In 2003, it received over 215,000 identity theft complaints.   In 2002 the FTC had 162,000, and back in 2001 there were only 86,000.

      Each victim spends an average of 175 hours and about $800 out of their own pocket to clear their name.   Hopefully, with good access to current information, you can get things ironed out more quickly and at far less expense.

      Obviously, this problem is growing rapidly.      While prevention and guarding your confidential identity information is a wise precaution, it cannot entirely prevent your identity being stolen.

      As an example, in early 2005 a Bank of America cyber-thief apparently stole the identity information of 1.2 million federal employees, by absconding data tapes containing their customer and account information, names and Social Security numbers.     As of this writing, Bank of America is still unsure whether their data tapes were actually stolen, or were internally lost, burned or buried.

If your identity has been stolen, the FTC offers guidance on what you can do.

   Learn more at:

    US Federal Trade Commission



To limit your vulnerability, and lessen your chances of falling victim to Identity Theft, take the following preventative steps:


The next time you order checks have only your initials (instead of your first name), and then your last name put 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 writing checks to pay on your credit card accounts, DO NOT list 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 of the check processing channels won't have access to it.


Put your work phone # on your checks, and if you have a PO Box, use that instead of your home address.
If you don't have a PO Box, you might ask your employer if you can use your work address.


      Never have your Social Security Number printed on your checks. (DUH!)   You can add it by hand, ONLY if it is absolutely necessary.. and ASK the Merchant, Company or Agency exactly WHY they think they need your SSI Number in the First Place!


       NEVER, NEVER, NEVER keep your Social Security Card in your wallet, handbag, backpack or purse!   If it gets stolen or if you lose IT, you're in real trouble, because the Social Security Administration will NOT issue a person a second (or new) Social Security Number!    Yes, they will replace your card, but your Identity and Financial security has already been compromised...


At least once a year, place the contents of your wallet on a photocopy machine, copy both sides of each license, credit card, etc.

You will know exactly what you had in your wallet and have all of the account numbers and phone numbers you'll need to call to cancel them.   Keep this photocopy in a very safe place, like a safety deposit box, or a personal safe.


      Never give your Social Security Number out to anyone who calls you over the telephone!!!   You should first ask WHY they need it, and if the reason seems legit, then get their full Name, ID number and Department, or ask for their Supervisor, and offer to call them back in a few minutes, after you have confirmed their information.

Then Call the company back at their published Main or Customer Service number (look it up online) at:   and have THEM transfer you back to the individual or department who called you.


     A best practice is to leave all your Credit Cards at home, and only carry one "card" with you.   That one card is an ATM-only card, which you can get from your bank or Credit Union, if you ask for one.   This ATM-only card will only do one thing - get you cash from an ATM, and it only works with your PIN (personal identification number), so if you DO lose it, no one else can use it!

  Leave all your Credit Cards at home, or in a safe place, and just take the ATM-only card, some cash, and your Driver's License with you when you go out.   That way, even if these get lost or stolen, it's an easy thing to replace them, and your money and Identity stay safe.

  Also, be sure to carry a photocopy of your passport whenever you travel abroad.

What to Do...


      We have all been told we should cancel our credit cards immediately. But the key is having the toll free numbers and your credit 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, and get a copy to show credit providers that you reported the crime.

This is a first step toward an investigation (if there ever is one).

    But here's what's the most important:

IMMEDIATELY call or contact all three national credit reporting organizations (listed below) to place a fraud alert on your name and Social Security number.

      This alert notifies any company that checks your credit that your identity information was stolen.    Companies will then have to contact you by phone to authorize new credit.

Their phone numbers and websites are:

Equifax: 1-800-525-6285;

Experian (formerly named TRW): 1-888-397-3742;

Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289;

Social Security Administration (fraud line): 1-800-269-0271

Also, see my Personal Security page on the Golden Brick Road.


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by the Wizard of Jobs

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