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What if someone steals your wallet or purse? ID Theft - a new wave in criminal activity

Cheap advice from a friend on what to do if your purse/wallet is stolen. We've all heard horror stories about fraud that is committed using your name, address, social security number, credit, etc. Unfortunately I have firsthand knowledge. My wallet was stolen last month and within a week the thieves had 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 info online, and more.

Here is some critical information to limit the damage in case this happens to you or someone you know. As everyone always advises, cancel your credit cards immediately. The key is having the toll free numbers and your card numbers handy so you know whom 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!). File a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where it was stolen. This proves to credit providers you were diligent and is also the first step toward getting an investigation started by local authorities.

Probably the most important call you can make is to the three national credit-reporting organizations. Make these calls immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and social security number. I have never heard of doing this 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 knows your identity was stolen and they will contact you by phone to authorize new credit.

Almost two weeks had passed before I was advised to place a fraud alert with the credit reporting organizations. By then the damage had been done. A review of my credit records revealed all the credit checks initiated by the thieves' purchases, none of which I knew about before placing the alert. Since then no additional damage has been done and my wallet was found and turned in.

Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
Experian (formerly TRW): 1-800-301-7195
Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289
Social Security Administration Fraud Line: 1-800-269-0271

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