Prevention is one of the best strategies to use in solving life stress because it allows you to take control of problems before they have a chance to negatively impact your life. The counseling staff of LifeWorks believes that it is always wise to take positive action to solve problems before they occur so that you have control of your life, instead of your life controlling you. Every step you take in balancing your life gives you more time and energy to enjoy the things that are most important to you instead of most of your time being spent trying to ‘clean up’ the problems that come from being ‘blind-sided’ by things that could have been prevented ahead of time.
One of these preventable areas is the crime of identity theft. A local business leader sent us a list of strategies to use in protecting confidential and personal financial information which we customized and added to for our clients. We reviewed the action steps and thought that this would be a positive area of life for everyone to take a look at since identity theft is such a growing problem in our country.
As you read through the following strategies, think about how you can take positive action now to protect your confidential information and prevent future stress by organizing this important financial area of life today. After you have a chance to take these stress reduction steps to protect your family, consider passing along these strategies to help others. That way you can help solve some stressful problems for the people you care about as well as add value to the relationship at the same time so that you both will have a better quality of life.
Action steps to solve identity theft
- Identity theft is a crime committed against us when someone is able to steal your name, address, Social Security number, credit cards or checks to use without your knowledge or permission. It happens more often than any of us could ever realize and can cost you thousands of dollars and untold stress from trying to research and solve these problems months or even years after it has happened.
- If your wallet is stolen the thieves can use the information to charge just about anything, from expensive monthly cell phone packages, applying for other credit cards in your name, but sent to their address, get credit lines approved to buy computers or other on-line purchases, or even to change PIN numbers to allow them to steal even more of your information online. Here's some critical information to know so you can limit the damage in case this happens to you.
- Place the contents of your wallet on a photocopy machine. Do both sides of each license, credit card, etc. You will know what you had in your wallet and all of the account numbers and phone numbers to call and cancel.
- Keep the photocopy in a safe place. Also, when traveling, it is wise to carry a photocopy of your passport as well as a copy of your photo ID.
- Once you realize that your wallet has been taken you should cancel your credit cards immediately. Keep your card numbers and the toll free numbers handy so that you can respond as quickly as possible.
- File a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where your credit cards or wallet was stolen. This proves to credit providers you were diligent, and this is a first step toward a police investigation to take action against the thieves if they are caught.
- Call the national credit reporting organizations as soon as you can to place a fraud alert on your name and Social Security number so that banks or other lending institutions can know to check credit applications made over the Internet in your name. The alert means any company checking your credit history will know that your information was stolen, and to contact you by phone to authorize new credit, here’s their numbers: -Equifax: 1-800-525-6285-Experian (formerly TRW): 1-888-397-3742-Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289-Social Security Administration (fraud line): 1-800- 269-0271
- The next time you order checks have only your initials (instead of first name) and 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.
- Do not sign the back of your credit cards. Instead, put "PHOTO ID REQUIRED" so that the store clerk will have to see your license to insure that it’s really you and not just look at your signature that someone else could learn to forge.
- When you are writing checks to pay on your credit card accounts, DO NOT put 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 the check processing channels won't have access to it.
- Put your work phone # on your checks instead of your home phone. If you have a PO Box use that instead of your home address. If you do not have a PO Box, use your work address. Never have your SS# printed on your checks. You can add it if it is necessary, but if you have it printed, anyone can get it to use it to access almost every area of your personal financial information.