Identity Theft

A lost or stolen wallet or purse is a gold mine of information for a new kind of crook: the identity thief.

Identity thieves can use information found in your wallet or purse from credit cards, checks, your social security card, even health insurance cards to establish new accounts in your name. That could create an identity crisis that can take months to detect, and even longer to unravel.

Tips for Preventing Identity Theft

If your wallet or purse is lost or stolen, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) suggests that you:
  • File a report with the police immediately. Get a copy in case your bank, credit card company or insurance company needs proof of the crime
  • Cancel each credit and charge card. Get new cards with new account numbers
  • Call the fraud departments of the major credit reporting agencies:
    • Equifax: 800-525-6285
    • Experian: 888-397-3742
    • TransUnion: 800-680-7289
  • Ask them to put a fraud alert on your account and add a victim's statement to your file requesting that creditors contact you before opening new accounts in your name
  • Ask the credit bureaus for copies of your credit reports. Review your reports carefully to make sure no additional fraudulent accounts have been opened in your name or unauthorized changes made to your existing accounts. In a few months, order new copies of your reports to verify your corrections and changes, and to make sure no new fraudulent activity has occurred
  • Report the loss to your bank if your wallet or purse contained bank account information, including account numbers, ATM cards or checks. Cancel checking and savings accounts and open new ones. Stop payments on outstanding checks
  • Get a new ATM card, account number and personal identification number (PIN) or password
  • Report your missing driver's license to the Texas Department of Public Safety. The Ft. Bend County office is located at:
    5505 Ave. N. (FM 2218)
    Rosenberg, TX
    You may also call them at 281-232-4334.
  • Change the locks on your home and car if your keys were taken. Don't give an identity thief access to even more personal property and information.

Contacting the Federal Trade Commission

If you have been a victim of identity theft, file a complaint with the FTC by contacting:
  • FTC's Identity Theft Hotline
    Toll-free: 877-IDTHEFT (438-4338)
    TDD: 202-326-2502;
  • Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission
    600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.
    Washington, DC 20580

Step-by-Step Advice

Read this and make a copy for your files in case you need to refer to it someday. Maybe we should all take some of his advice:
  • Do not sign the back of your credit cards. Instead, put "photo ID required"
  • When you are writing checks to pay on your credit card accounts, do not put the complete account number on the "for" line. 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
  • Put your work phone number on your checks instead of your home phone. If you have a post office box, use that instead of your home address. If you do not have a post office box, use your work address
  • Never have your social security number printed on your checks. You can add it if it is necessary, but if you have It printed, anyone can get it
  • Place the contents of your wallet on a photocopy machine. Do both sides of each license, credit card, etc. You will know what you had in your wallet and all of the account numbers and phone numbers to call and cancel. Keep the photocopy in a safe place. Also, carry a photocopy of your passport when traveling either here or abroad. We've all heard horror stories about fraud that's committed on us in stealing a name, address, social security number, and credit cards
  • Cancel credit cards immediately, but 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
  • File a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where your credit cards, etc and other information were stolen. This proves to credit providers you were diligent, and this is a first step toward an investigation (if there is one)
  • Call the three national credit reporting organizations immediately to place a fraud alert on your name, and also call the social security fraud line number. 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 knows your information was stolen, and they have to contact you by phone to authorize new credit