Protect Against Identity Theft
Use only your initials and your last name on preprinted checks. So if someone steals your checkbook, they will not know how you sign your checks—with your initials or your first name and last name. But your bank knows.
When writing checks to pay credit card accounts, include only the last four numbers of the account number on the “For” line. The credit card company knows the rest of the code, but a thief won’t.
Leave your home address and phone number off your checks. If you have a post office box, it’s better to use that; if not, and you feel a need to add an address, use your work address and phone number.
If you must include your Social Security number on checks, write—never preprint. Be wary about giving the number to anyone but authorized people—your banker or accountant, for example.
Photocopy the front and back of all the ID cards (driver’s license and credit cards, for example) in your wallet. Jot down the credit card issuers’ phone numbers to call if you lose the wallet, and keep the photocopy in a safe place.
Immediately after you discover a loss, cancel
your credit cards; that’s why you want those phone numbers
Immediately call the three national credit-reporting organizations to place a fraud alert on your name and Social Security number. Once alerted, any company that checks your credit immediately will be told your information was stolen. You should call the following: Equifax (888-766-0008), Experian (888-397-3742) and Trans Union (800-680-7289). You also should report the loss to the Social Security Administration’s fraud line at 800-269-0271.
Advice on Giving Advice
STANLEY ZAROWIN is a freelance writer in Zionsville, Indiana. Mr. Zarowin retired from the JofA in 2003. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .