The next time you order checks have only your initials (instead of first name) and last name put on them. If someone takes your check book 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. Put your work phone number on your checks instead of your home phone. If you have a post office box, use that instead of your home address. If you do not have a post office box, use your work address. Never have your Social Security number or driver’s license number printed on your checks – you can add them if it is necessary. But if you have them printed, anyone can get them. Place the contents of your wallet on a photocopy machine, and don’t forget to copy both sides of each license, credit card, etc. This way, 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.We’ve all heard horror stories about fraud that’s committed on people in stealing a name, address, Social Security number, credit cards, etc. Unfortunately, there are a lot of true horror stories when this happens. With only a small amount of information, easily obtainable from the information contained in most of our wallets, a thief could order an expensive monthly cell phone package, apply for a credit card, have a credit line approved, receive a PIN number from a government agency to change your driving record information online, and more. Here’s some critical information to limit the damage in case this happens to you or someone you know:

You already know that you should cancel your credit cards immediately when you discover that they have been stolen. The key to minimizing the damage is having the toll free numbers and your card numbers handy so you know whom to call. Keep those numbers where you can find them easily. Additionally, file a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where your wallet 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:

Call the three national credit reporting organizations immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and Social Security number. 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.

Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289
Experian (formerly TRW): 1-888-397-3742
Social Security Administration (fraud line): 1-800-269-0271