From Don Christian 4-01

We've all heard horror stories about fraud that's committed using your name, address, SS#, credit, etc. Unfortunately I (the author of this piece) have firsthand knowledge, because my wallet was stolen last month and within a week the thieve(s) ordered an expensive monthly cell phone package, applied for a VISA credit card, had a credit line approved to buy a Gateway computer, received a PIN number from DMV to change my driving record information online, and more.

But here's some critical information to limit the damage in happens to you or someone you know.

Cancel your credit cards immediately! The key is having the toll free numbers and your card numbers handy so you know who to call. Keep those where you can find them easily (having to hunt for them is additional stress you WON'T need at that point)!

Lay all your cards on a copier and make two copies: front side and back side. The back side usually has the phone numbers to call. Keep these two pages in a safe place, you will be glad to have them.

File a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where it 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: I never ever thought to do this.............

Call the three national credit reporting organizations immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and SS#. I had never heard of doing that until advised by a bank that called to tell me an application for credit was made over the Internet in my name. The alert means any company that checks your credit will be alerted that your information was stolen. They will have to contact you by phone to authorize new credit. This will stop the thieves from using your cards.

The three phone numbers are:

Equifax 1-800 525-6285

Experian (formerly TRW) 1-800-301-7195

Social Security Administration fraud line 1-800-269-0271