About a year ago my account’s office was broken into. The only thing the thieves took were the hard drives from the computers. That is scary for someone like me because the message is clear. These guys are smart enough to know that the value of all the personal information stored on those drives is worth far more than any of the other items in that office.
Here are some of the things I learned from this experience:
- Call one of the national credit reporting agencies and have them place a block on your account. Calling one will place a block with all the agencies. There are two kinds of blocks. One locks your account for 90 days another will lock your account for years. The lock simply means that an alert will show up anytime someone tries to check your account which will tell the person checking to contact you directly.
- Pull a credit report from at least one of the agencies once a year or so. By law you can do this for free once a year on this website. If you want to make sure that site is legit you can look at the FTC website here.
Numbers to keep handy
- Equifax: 800-525-6285
- Experian (formerly TRW): 888-397-3742
- TransUnion : 800-680-7289
- Social Security Administration (fraud line): 800-269-0271
Here are some other general tips for keeping your money safe:
- I have terrible hand writing and with the electronic signature pads now used my signature NEVER matches the signature on the back of my card. In the future write “PHOTO ID REQUIRED.” on the back of the card (not that the clerks ever look at my card anyway so it is unlikely they would ever see that, but it is a step.
- If you write a check to pay your credit card don’t write the credit card number on the check. If you must just put on the last four numbers.
- Use a cell phone or work number on your checks. Use a PO Box for your address if you can. Never put your social security number on anything. Better yet use a credit card instead of a check to pay. The credit card gives you some level of protection.
- Photocopy everything in your wallet and store the copies in a secure location
- Copy any and all phone numbers off of the items in your wallet. Keep the numbers in your car or if you are traveling in your luggage. It is unlikely that anyone will want to still the phone numbers (they couldn’t do anything with them anyway) but if your wallet is stolen you can make a couple of quick phone calls to lock down your cards.
- If you have a passport make a photocopy and keep that with you when you travel just in case your actual passport is stolen.
- Check your credit card and bank accounts often to watch for suspicious activity.
- If your wallet or card is stolen contact the police immediately and file a report where your wallet was stolen.