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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Protecting Your Credit - - Veldon L. Law, Ed.D.

In his business development activity in working with The Flagship Financial Group, the author Veldon L. Law has observed and overhead horror stories of clients who have had their credit and lives devastated when their identity and credit accounts have been unlawfully stolen or assumed. In an effort to help others avoid the fallout from illegal actions the following tips are provided to encourage a proactive approach to self-protection and in some cases self-preservation.

8 Tips for Credit Protection
Concerned about identity theft? What we read and hear tells us we certainly should be!

With considerable and justifiable concern over identity fraud, stole identification, stolen credit cards, stolen credit card numbers, stolen private information, etc. there is ample reason to worry about protecting that information. More than worrying there are ample reasons to be proactive in protecting yourself.

Some appear to seek that security through paying a fee to a credit protection service. While this may be necessary it makes equal sense, or perhaps more sense, to take personal responsibility and action to shelter yourself from others illegal actions. What follows below are some simple actions that you can take to lessen the potential those with criminal intent will be able to do you and your life harm. In any event take action to protect yourself and your interests.

What is recommended below are actions that are almost effortless and can be accomplished with very little cost.

1. Do not sign the back of your credit cards. Instead of placing your authorizing signature on the card, write: “PHOTO ID REQUIRED.”

2. Copy the contents of your wallet. Be sure to copy both sides of all licenses, credit cards, IDs, etc. Store the copies in a safe and memorable location. This way you will know precisely what you had in your wallet. You will also have all account numbers and phone numbers in the event your wallet is lost or stolen and you must cancel the accounts.

3. If you are not in the practice of shredding information rich sensitive materials get yourself a good shredder, one that will not easily permit another to scotch tape the document back together. You are best served by a shredder that makes confetti out of the information you run through it.

4. The next time you order checks use your first and middle initial in lieu of your first name, along with your last name. That way if someone steals your checkbook, they will not know if you sign your checks with your initials or your first name. The bank on the other hand will know how you sign your checks.

5. When you are writing out your checks to pay on your credit card accounts DO NOT put the full account number in the “For” line. Instead, use the last four digits of the account numbers. The credit card company knows the rest of your number, and anyone who might be handling a check as it passes through all the check-processing channels will not have access to it.

6. Some other check advice – put your work phone number on your checks, not your home number. If you have a Post Office Box use that as your home address. If you don’t have a Post Office Box use your work address for your home address. Make sure you never put your social security number on your check. You can print it on if it is absolutely necessary, but this way you protect your other checks should they be stolen.

7. When traveling also have a copy of your passport, either in country or abroad.

8. When you check out of a hotel that uses cards for keys (almost all use these cards now), do not turn the "card keys" in. Take them with you and destroy them. It is my understanding that those little cards have all of the information you gave the hotel, including address and credit card numbers and expiration dates on them. Someone with a card reader, or employee of the hotel, can access all that information with no problem what-so-ever.

3 Tips to Limit Damage if Your Information Has Been Stolen
In the unfortunate event that you do have your wallet stolen here is some critical information to limit the damage.

1. Most all of us know and have been told if our credit cards are stolen we should cancel our credit cards immediately. To do this you must have the toll free numbers as well as your card numbers handy so you know whom to call. Keep copies, front and back, in a location where they can be easily and quickly found.

2. Make sure you file a police report immediately and in the jurisdiction where your credit cards, etc., were stolen. This proves to credit providers you were diligent in protecting their interests with false charges. Reporting the theft is a first step toward an investigation (if there ever is one).

3. However, here is perhaps the most important action of all to take in the event of a theft. Call the three national credit reporting organizations immediately and place a fraud alert on your name and Social Security number. This alert lets any company that checks your credit know your information was stolen. With that notification they have to contact you by phone to authorize the new credit. This should prevent the crooks from running up additional credit costs in your name. Here are the numbers you need to contact about your wallet and its contents being stolen:
a.) Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
b.) Experian (formerly TRW): 1-888-397-3742
c.) TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
d.) Social Security Administration (fraud line): 1-800-269-0271
You will want to make sure you keep a copy of this information with the copies you have made of the items contained in your wallet.

- - Veldon Law

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