Q: My husband thinks I’m obsessed about our wallets being stolen, but I learned my lesson after a thief used my credit card a few months ago. What advice can I give my nay-sayer spouse so he thinks I’m practical? — Alice Action
A: Dear Alice: You are most certainly very practical to try to help your husband avoid theft of his wallet or other skullduggery. Old-fashioned thievery of wallets, digging in trash to find credit card account numbers, purse snatching and the like continue to contribute to identity theft just as much as elaborate hoaxes.
Start with every single item in your and his wallets — from credit cards all the way down to library cards — and photocopy each one
front and back. (Contact information is generally found on the backside.) Store this list in your home safe or, if staying in a hotel, in its safe. Heaven forbid, some scumbag filches any of the cards, but if this does happen, you’ve got recourse, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center at www.idtheftcenter.org).
Other steps this group suggests:
n Immediately call your credit card companies. Do NOT cancel your account as this places your credit score in jeopardy. Instead, ask for a new number and insist you don’t want anything to show up as “canceled by consumer.” Then change all passwords, but don’t use your mother’s maiden name, pet’s name or other identifying information. The best type is to use a series of letters and numbers combined.
* Ask for and make sure to receive a copy of the police complaint for your records.
* Call the “Big Three” and ask for a fraud alert to be placed on your credit reporting files. (I’ve urged readers to follow this advice in the past and, even more, to join the security site Lifelock at www.lifelock.org).
Equifax’s fraud alert number is (800) 525-6285; Experian’s is (888) 397-3742; and TransUnion is (800) 680-7289.
* Don’t forget the DMV, either. In Tennessee, ask the Department of Safety to put a flag on your license to protect you if the thief tries to obtain a new one and/or runs up traffic violations.
* Go to your bank and ask for a new ATM, debit and checking account number.
* And, finally, visit www.annualcreditreport.com in two weeks to obtain a free credit check. (This time period gives the thief time to apply for credit but usually not enough time to receive any new credit cards.)
Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. An expanded version is at www.timesfreepress.com under Local Business.