How to protect your identity when your cards go missing
A Wallet Gone AWOL
By Sid Kirchheimer
fax at 1-800-525-6285 ( equifax.com).
With a fraud alert in place, creditors
are supposed to verify your identity,
usually by phone, before issuing new
credit in your name.
; Ask the DMV to put a “flag” on your
license file. This will make it harder for
a thief to apply for a new copy of your li-
cense. It will help protect you if someone
runs up tra;c violations in your name.
You may have to replace your license
in person, proving your identity with a
birth certificate, passport or Social Se-
curity card (which you shouldn’t carry
in your wallet).
; Notify your bank. You’ll want a new
ATM or debit card and a new check-
ing account if your checkbook
; Check your credit his-
tory about two weeks later.
.com or call 1-877-322-8228
toll-free for your free report
and then look under “Inqui-
ries” for any new credit appli-
cations made in your name.
The two-week wait provides
enough time for thieves to ap-
ply for credit but generally not enough for cards
to be issued, says Foley. Recheck your credit re-
port two to three months later. ;
ven in the age of computer hacking and elaborate Inter- net schemes, huge numbers of
identity thefts begin with something
very old-fashioned, the loss or theft
of a wallet or purse, according to the
2010 Identity Fraud Survey Report by
Javelin Strategy & Research.
To protect yourself, start now.
Make photocopies of the front and
back of every card you keep in your
wallet—your driver’s license, credit
and insurance cards, even video rental
memberships and library cards. (Over-
due videos and library books taken out
in your name will result in fines.)
Having copies at home or in your ho-
tel room safe while traveling will give
you access to all your accounts, includ-
ing those you may forget in a panic. Plus, the back
of a card usually lists important information,
such as security codes and contact information
to report loss or theft.
If your wallet goes missing, here’s what to do:
; Immediately call all your credit card companies
to request an “account number change.” Don’t
ask to “cancel” your account—that can hurt your
credit score, especially if you have an outstand-
ing balance. Explain that you want a new number
issued so that nothing shows up on your credit
report as “canceled by consumer,” advises Linda
Foley of the Identity Theft Resource Center.
; Change passwords to ensure that your ac-
counts can’t be opened by an identity
thief. The best passwords use made-
up words that are a mixture of letters,
numbers and symbols. Don’t make
passwords of your mother’s maiden
name, pet’s name or other identifiers
that can be found online.
; File a report with the police in
your hometown and the place where
you and your wallet parted ways.
Get copies. You’ll need them in later dealings.
; Request a fraud alert be put on the credit
accounts that the three major credit bureaus
maintain about you. Contact Experian at
1-888-397-3742 ( experian.com), TransUnion at
1-800-680-7289 ( transunion.com), and Equi-
of the front
of every card
you keep in
is the author of
, published by AARP Books/Sterling.
What should I shred, and when?
hred everything with your sig-
nature, birth date, Social Secu-
rity number, account numbers,
or for tax purposes. Shred bank deposit
slips and ATM and credit card receipts as
soon as the transactions appear on state-
ments. Shred bank statements, pay stubs
and medical bills after one year. Save in-
definitely any paperwork that is related
to taxes, mortgage payments, improve-
ments on your home, and medical and
prescription records. ; Send queries to
Ask Sid, 601 E St. NW, Washington, DC
20049 or send them by e-mail to asksid@
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