December 15, 2007 at 4:30 am my husband and I woke up to the sound of the alarm clock beeping in the dark. As I came to consciousness from my slumber I noticed our hall light was on. I asked my husband “Did you turn the light on?” He looked at me with a questioning look “I thought you did it.” I ran to my one year old daughter’s room. Just then I heard my front door slam. When I got there I saw her sitting up quietly in her crib. Then the sinking feeling turned to panic when we entered our kitchen to find all the drawers pulled open. My purse and my husband’s wallet were missing. Someone had been in our house as we slept. We had been robbed.
This is not the time to think. You can’t think. You are too scared, too angry, too violated. It was because of preplanning that the thief gained nothing from the crime. By 5 am, before stores opened, I had every card flagged and my bank accounts closed. With a plan I didn’t have to think, just act, to protect myself. I was no longer a helpless victim, I was empowered to protect what had been taken and I will share with you the tools I used to make it happen.
When your credit cards come in they are on a paper that has your account information on it and the phone number of the fraud line for that credit card. Make a file and keep all of these papers together. It is too difficult to remember this after the fact what cards were in your wallet so make photo copies of each credit card, debit cards and your driver’s license, any association cards, or any other cards that you may carry in your wallet and keep it in the file. When the information is in one place you can work quickly and efficiently to get you life back on track as soon as possible. You can make a spreadsheet of this information but put it on a disc. Leaving it on your computer can leave you vulnerable to people who can access your computer through file sharing programs.
Don’t wait. If you have any question in your mind about whether the cards will be returned call and have them flagged or cancelled. Most thieves know they have only the first 24 hours to make their purchases on your card and that is exactly what they will do. The only way that you will not be held accountable for those charges is to contact the credit card companies immediately. So don’t delay.
It is helpful to have the credit card information broken down by whose name the account is under. Credit card companies will only allow the owner of the account to make changes. You will also want to know any PIN numbers or special codes. Then you can go down your call list and place alerts on all of your accounts.
Also you may want to have your credit report frozen. Many states have laws that allow you to do this for free. This protects your credit rating if your information is stolen with your credit cards.
Anyone can be vulnerable to credit card theft. Knowing what to do and having a plan can give you peace of mind.