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 We've all heard horror stories about fraud that's committed using your
name, address, SS#, credit, etc. Unfortunately I (the author of this
piece who happens to be an attorney) have firsthand knowledge, because
my wallet was stolen last month and within a week the thieve(s) ordered an
expensive monthly cell phone package, applied for a VISA credit card,
had a credit line approved to buy a Gateway computer, received a PIN
number from DMV to change my driving record information online, and
more. But, here's some critical information to limit the damage in case this
happens to you or someone you know.

As everyone always advises, cancel your credit cards immediately, but
the key is having the toll free numbers and your card numbers handy so
you know whom to call. Keep those where you can find them easily. File
police report immediately in the jurisdiction where it was stolen, this proves
to credit providers you were diligent, and is a first step toward an investigation
(if there ever is one).

But here's what is perhaps most important: (I never ever thought to do
this) - Call the three national credit reporting organizations
immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and SS#.  I had never
heard of doing that until advised by a bank that called to tell me and
application for credit was made over the Internet in my name. The alert means
any company that checks your credit knows your information was stolen
and they have to contact you by phone to authorize new credit. By the time
I was advised to do this, almost 2 weeks after the theft, all the damage
had been done. There are records of all the credit checks initiated by the
thieves' purchases, none of which I knew about before placing the alert. Since
then, no additional damage has been done, and the thieves threw my
wallet away this weekend (someone turned it in). It seems to have stopped them
in their tracks.

The numbers are: 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 www.ssa.gov/oig/   

Thanks to Mark Lloyd!


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