How to Protect yourself from Falling Victim to Identity Theft

JDC Insite: Identity theft and credit card fraud can happen to anyone at anytime. Have you taken the time to secure your accounts? Probably not.

“Unfortunately, I, an attorney, have firsthand knowledge because my wallet was stolen in February of 2005. Within a week, the thieve(s) ordered an expensive monthly cell phone package, applied for a VISA card, had a credit line approved to buy a Gateway computer, received a PIN number from DMV to change my driving record information on-line, and more.” (*)

The above referenced lawyer probably never dreamed he would lose or have his wallet stolen. – Perhaps we could say he was complacent and “assumed” a degree of being impervious to identity theft.

With technological advancement and the genius expertise of hackers, identity theft has run amok! Don’t allow your self to become a victim. Take the time to review your information and take action consider the following little known changes that just may save you months or even years of struggling to gain back your identity and credit history!


1.) Have your checks printed with just your initials…(if someone steals your checkbook they will not know how your checks are to be signed. Your bank will know from the signature card on file.) Attorney recommended Deluxe Checks, the biggest check supplier does process checks with just initials with customers who do exactly that.

2.) Deluxe Checks recommends: make sure you order the foil-protected checks so they cannot be “washed” by thieves. A process whereby the print in taken off and the check can be rewritten for a larger amount. Avoid the Standard Blue. The two or three dollars more per box will be worth it. The use of any designed background further makes it more difficult to support identity check theft.

3.) Do not list a phone number on your check. If you must, use your work phone if permissible. If you have a Post Office Box use that instead of your home address.

4.) Do not put your Social Security Number on your checks. There is no need too. The only people who have a right to know, is someone like your banker, your credit card company, your employer and possibly when you rent or sign up for utilities.

The law provides that you do not have to give your social security number for general record keeping. “You don’t have to give out your SSN just because a business or someone asks for it. – Memorize your number. (Don’t carry your SSN card in your purse or wallet).” (*)

5.) Do not put your social security number on your driver’s license. If a state requires it, ask if you can use another number for identification.

Some companies may not provide a service or product if you don’t give them your social security number. Use caution. If your buying a car, they need your SSN. If buying general merchandise they do not. Be ready to question: Why do you need it? How will it be used? What law requires me to do so? What will happen if I don’t give it to you? Then make your decision. (*)


1.) Place passwords with companies on your banking accounts credit cards – phone accounts and bill paying such as your cable bill. Ask that your statements be sent with just your initials and last name, while keeping the basic in-house information as is. (Should you loose a checkbook, or someone gets hold of a bill – access of your personal information will be next to impossible).

2.) On accounts: instead of standard information like maiden name, most companies will allow you to have a protected password in its place.

3.) If a company insist on using the last four digits of your social security number ask them to add a password to the account, after which they can then ask for the social security information. Not all company software has the capability to comply with this… It’s about time they did! Do your best to get them to comply with your needs.

4.) Never use your birth date or year as a password. If you insist, enter it as 2_0_0_7 or some form of it.


1.) If you believe your credit card information has been compromised or hear of a hacking into the systems of stores you deal with, call them immediately to cancel the account.

2.) Ask your credit card company to reissue you a new card … with just your initials and last name. Don’t forget to ask what the dollar figure is in case of theft and fraud for which you may be liable. In some cases it is $50.00.

3.) Consider not signing the back of your credit cards. Instead, put “PHOTO ID REQUIRED.” Your driver’s license should suffice for physical identification and signature. If you are not sure … contact some of the businesses you deal with and ask what their policy is regarding purchasing in their establishments.

3.) IMPORTANT: If you believe your credit card information has been compromised or find your self a victim of identity theft or credit card fraud go into the police department and make out a report a.s.a.p. – “This proves to credit providers you were diligent, and this is a first step toward an investigation (if there ever is one.).” (*)

4.) Next: “Contact the three national credit reporting organizations immediately to place a FRAUD ALERT on your name and social security number. Now, any company checking your credit is aware your information was stolen, and more importantly, they have to contact you by phone to authorize new credit.” (*)

Equifax: …… 1-800-525-6285
Experian: ….. 1-888-397-3742 (formerly TRW)
Trans Union: .. 1-800-680-7289
Social Security Administration (fraud line): 1-800-269-0271


Never write a check to pay a credit card or regular bill referencing the full account number. List only the last four digits (4) in the description area. (a/c ending in 1234). The company’s computer will know the account number from the imprinted code on the upper statement form.


1.) “Don’t give out personal information on the phone – through the mail – or on the Internet, unless you’ve initiated the contact and know with whom you are dealing… Identity thieves are clever, and have posed as representatives of banks Internet service providers (ISPs), and even government agencies, to get people to reveal their SSN, mother’s maiden name, account numbers and other identifying information.” (*)

2.) Treat your mail and trash carefully. Even though it is a definite pain … shred charge receipts, checks and bank statements, expired charge cards, the envelopes and pages of catalogs that have your full name and address and I.D. codes, and any form your finished with that has “any” personal information listed.

3.) “To OPT OUT of receiving offers of credit by mail call: 1-888-5-OPTOUT, or 1-888-567-8688. All the consumer reporting companies use the same toll free number allowing you to choose not to receive credit offers based on their lists. Note: you will be asked to provide your SSN in order to match you with your file.” (*)

4.) To get rid of your JUNK MAIL: write the Mail Preference Services, Direct Marketing Association, P.O. Box 282, Carmel, New York 10512-0643. This will certainly help get a lot of your information out of the system…

5.) It should be well worth your time and money to check your credit report periodically, whether your credit lines are high or not, especially if you have very good credit histories. – This will allow you to know instantly if someone has opened accounts – or is using existing accounts – and, whether your address of record has been changed, which is a definite “red flag” that you are becoming a victim.

6.) If you are starting to miss some of your mail or are getting irregular delivery cycles, contact your post office. Going through your mail and then returning it is a great way to slowly accumulate information on you, your habits, your accounts and basic identifying information.

Be cautious with your personal information, especially when responding to promotional material. Thieves can create phony offers just to get you to “bite” and give them all they need to make you a victim. – Don’t allow them to invade your life and reek havoc. Stop them now while you have the chance. One change won’t save you, but many little steps can make all the difference.


References: (*)
… “How Identity Theft Happens” – Office of the Inspector General, article dated 2/20/02 –, oig – U.S. Dept. of Education
… “Reduce Your Risk” – OIG, U.S. Dept. of Education, article dated 2/20/02
… “Attorney’s Advice – No Charge” – email 3/03/05 – Anonymous