As an estate planning attorney, I look to help my clients keep their personal information out of the public domain. The primary means to do this is to avoid court proceedings, mainly probate court.
But there are steps that you can take now to help reduce the risk and/or the impact of identity theft:
- Do not sign the back of your credit cards. Write ‘PHOTO ID REQUIRED.’ It creates a little more hassle at the cash register, but you are better off if your card gets stolen.
- Do not put the entire account number on your checks when you pay your credit card bill. Instead, just put the last four numbers. The credit card company knows the rest of the number, and anyone who might be handling your check as it passes through all the check processing channels won’t have access to it.
- Try to use a PO Box and/or your work phone number, rather than your personal information on your checks.
- Photocopy the contents of your wallet. Make sure you copy both sides of license, credit card, insurance card . . . This gives you a list of everything in your wallet, including the phone numbers to cancel credit cards. Keep the photocopy in a safe place. Update the photocopy as necessary (maybe once a year). When you travel, bring the list of phone numbers with you, in duplicate (one in your luggage and one in your carry-on). This way, if your wallet is lost or stolen, you can make the appropriate calls immediately.
Here is further information on how to limit the damage if your wallet is lost or stolen:
- Cancel your credit cards immediately. To do this, you will need the phone numbers (see #4 above).
- File a police report. If the credit card fraud team does “further investigations”, your diligence will support your claim.
- Call at least one of three national credit reporting agencies to place a fraud alert on your name and information (they are required to report to the other two). The Federal trade Commission provides further details here: http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0275-place-fraud-alert
- Call the Social Security Fraud line at 1-800-269-0271. You can read more about identity theft and your social security number here: http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10064.pdf. And more about reporting fraud to Social Security Inspector General here: http://oig.ssa.gov/report.
Identity theft is a crime with lasting ramifications. We hope that these steps can help prevent it from happening to you or your loved ones.
Contributed by Morris Hall, PLLC Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces Estate Planning Attorney, and Partner, James P. Plitz.
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You have a number of options when it comes to estate planning, so why pick Morris Hall? First off, estate planning and asset protection are a very complicated endeavor and you should only trust someone who focuses exclusively on those matters. Also, Morris Hall is a proud member of The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys (AAEPA) which provides us additional support, advanced training, tools and information that is not available to others – which means that we can better protect your assets and your loved ones. We are one of only three firms in Arizona that belong to the AAEPA and are the only firm in New Mexico that has been granted membership. If you have assets and loved ones that you want to protect, you are in good hands with Morris Hall. Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!
This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.