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Ten steps everyone should know to protect themselves from identity theft, credit card fraud, medical identity theft and additional crimes after their wallet or purse is stolen.
It’s so easy. You left your purse in the cart turn your back to pick up carrots and your purse is gone. Or maybe your neighborhood is experiencing an increase in thefts from parked cars on the street or even in driveways. Or maybe your purse is stolen like my mother in laws was, with a hand that reached inside her car through the open window while sitting a red traffic signal and running. Whatever the reason, your purse is gone and with it your identity could be next.
What do you do now?
1. Contact your local police department and file a report.
2. Look around the immediate area, usually a purse snatching is a crime of opportunity and they often take what they can quickly and dump the purse, bag or wallet. Check the ground and near any business dumpsters. You never know what you may recover.
3. Make a list of what was in your purse; be sure to include your cell phone, check book, credit cards, even your membership cards to a local gym club or movie rental store like Blockbuster.
4. Using your list start contacting businesses immediately. The most important thing is to make sure to move quickly and hopefully stop the thief in their tracks.
Among those you should contact and report the theft to include: your bank as both your debit card and your checkbook has now been put at risk. Contact your credit card companies. Call your gym and get a new card and membership identification number. Stop in Blockbuster and make sure that you don’t get stuck with unreturned game or movie charges on your credit card after the thieves load up on media that they never return. Contact your school or work not only to obtain replacement identification but also to protect your information, identity and privacy. Even your library card puts you at risk.
5. Get a new Driver’s License; “cancel” the old one and hopefully your Social Security number was safe at home. If it was in your purse or wallet, visit the Social Security website to request a new card. Unfortunately you cannot get a new number except under very specific circumstances.
6. Contact your health and car insurance carrier and notify them of the theft and request new information. A health insurance card and Driver’s License can get your thief a tummy tuck or breast enhancement all on your dime.
7. Change the locks on your doors and car. Your purse may have contained your main or your backup set of keys. With those keys and your Driver’s License the thief will have access to your home and car. Contact the car dealership to see what changes can be made to your car locks.
8. Contact your cell phone company and ask that service is suspended. Trust me you won’t enjoy the $400.00 cell phone bill that comes your way as it did for my babysitter. When you get your new phone they can reactivate your old number and SIM card so that you don’t have to worry about changes.
9. Contact the three credit reporting agencies, Experian, Equifax, and Trans Union to place a fraud alert on your credit report. You really only need to contact one and the information can be shared. Once placed companies that attempt to obtain your credit information for any reason will be notified of the possibility of fraud.
10. Freeze your credit reports. By freezing your credit report no information can be provided without your permission. You can always remove the freeze. Some states may require a payment to either initiate the credit freeze or to lift it.
It is important to make sure you get all the report information before the officer leaves. This information will be needed at each and every stop along the way to protect you from identity theft, medical and credit card fraud. It can help you with your insurance claims, obtaining new documents and protecting your good name and credit. For now, it may be the most important document you have, in your new purse.