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Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft

Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft

According to the F.B.I., identity theft is the fastest-growing white-collar crime in the United States. Nowadays, when your purse or wallet gets stolen, the cash inside may not be the only thing a thief wants to steal. The most valuable items in your wallet are your Social Security number, ATM card, credit cards, bank checks, and any other items containing your personal information

There is, of course, no perfect way to prevent identity, but here are a few helpful tips to reduce your risk and reduce the impact of such theft.
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.
If your wallet is stolen, cancel your credit cards immediately.  To do this, you need to have the toll free numbers and your credit card numbers handy so you know whom to call. Keep those where you can find them easily. 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).
Call the three national credit bureaus immediately, place a fraud alert on your name and SSN.  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.
The numbers are:
Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
Experian (formerly TRW): 1-888-397-3742
Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289
Social Security Administration (fraud line): 1-800-269-0271
  • Reporting stolen cards as soon as possible limits the cardholder's losses and prevents further purchases, but information gleaned from those cards (and other items commonly found in wallets and purses) can still be used to perpetrate identity theft scams such as obtaining additional credit cards, cell phone service, bank accounts, or lines of credit the victim is unaware of. For this reason, it's a good idea for the holder of lost or stolen credit cards to call all the major credit bureaus and ask them to attach fraud alerts to the cardholder's name and Social Security account number so that any such activity will be flagged.
  • The next time you order checks:
      • Have only your initials (instead of first name) and last name put on them. If someone takes your check book they will not know if you sign your checks with just your initials or your first name but your bank will know how you sign your checks.
      • 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.  Alternatively, leave the memo field blank. The preprinted slip you return along with payment is all the credit card issuer needs to ensure payment is allocated against the correct account.
      • Don't put any phone numbers on the check.  If a merchant requires it, you can write it in.
      • If you have a PO Box use that instead of your home address. If you do not have a PO 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.
    • Carry only the cards you actually need. Minimize the identification information and the number of cards you carry in your wallet or purse. Do not carry your Social Security card unless you need it.
    • Never put your account information on the outside of an envelope or on a postcard.
    • Cut up old or expired credit cards. Close all inactive credit card and bank accounts. Even though you do not use them, these accounts appear on your credit report and may be used by thieves.
    • For your ATM card, choose a Personal Identification Number (PIN) different from your address, telephone number, middle name, the last four digits of your Social Security number, your birth date or any other information that could be easily discovered by thieves.
    • Memorize your PIN; do not write it on your ATM card or keep it written on a piece of paper somewhere in your wallet. Statistics show that in many instances of ATM card fraud, cardholders wrote their PINs on their ATM cards or on slips of paper kept with their wallets or purses.
    • Give your Social Security number only when absolutely necessary. Ask to use another type of identifying number whenever possible.
    • Do not give out personal information over the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless you have initiated contact or know the business with which you are dealing.
    • Compare your ATM receipts and cashed checks with your periodic bank statements to check for unauthorized transfers or charges.
    • Destroy credit card statements, bank statements and pre-approved credit offers when you do not need them. 
    • Decrease the number of unsolicited credit card applications that you receive. The fewer credit card applications you receive, the less likely it is that one will be stolen. Call (888) 5OPT-OUT to have your name removed from the marketing lists sold by the major credit bureaus for two years, or removed permanently.
    • Order a copy of your credit report from the three credit reporting agencies at least once every year to review your file for possible fraud.

        For more information -

      • Wednesday

        Buying Hot Tickets Online

        TIP OF THE DAY
        Buying Hot Tickets Online

        New York Times, July 3, 2003

        Hot Tickets, Hawked Legitimately Online

        By TOM DI NOME

        FOR decades, ticket scalpers have been as much a part of concerts or sporting events as overpriced food and merchandise. With the rise of the Internet, scalping went online, as ticket holders seeking buyers turned to bulletin boards, newsgroups or eBay.

        For sellers, going online is more convenient than standing outside a stadium or concert hall to do business, but for buyers, there are sometimes questions about the reliability of the source and legality of the transactions.

        That has begun to change, with the acceptance of a new, more legitimate term for scalping - "selling on the secondary market'' - and the emergence of virtual marketplaces that provide safe forums for reselling tickets, at or even above their face value. Using technologies designed to guard against the sale of counterfeit, stolen or fraudulent tickets, these services threaten to dent the scalpers' franchise.

        There is no shortage of secondary ticket options online. Depending on your choice of event and how much you are willing to pay, you can probably find what you want. The sites all operate on the same simple principle - demand drives supply - but there are some variations, including delivery options and fees.

        Ticketmaster and, the top players in online ticketing, are both better known as primary ticket outlets, but each has formed relationships with professional sports organizations to give season-ticket holders a way to resell tickets that would otherwise go unused. At eBay, event ticket auctions are a distinct marketing category. Other sites, including StubHub, offer a secondary market for tickets to all kinds of events. There are also broker sites like TicketCity, which aggregates the ticket inventories of brokers around the world.

        Call it organized scalping or a consumer service; either way, online ticket sales are big business. Total sales of movie and event tickets online are expected to reach $3.1 billion in 2003, according to Jupiter Research, the Internet consulting firm. And while an estimate of the secondary market is hard to come by, the activities of several online ticketing companies suggest that it is a fast-growing area.

        The most recent entrant, Premier Ticket Window, is a secondary marketplace started last month by and accessible through a prominent link on the company's home page.

        "This is our answer for consumers who come to our Web site, and for whatever reason can't find a ticket to either the performance or venue they're looking for," said Carl Thomas, the executive vice president for sales and marketing at Premier Ticket Window offers access to events at venues that do not have arrangements with For example, a visitor to the site who searches for a team not listed with is directed to the Premier Ticket Window.

        The inventory for Premier Ticket Window is provided by RazorGator, a service that handles the entire process behind the scenes.

        Another option for ticket-seekers are secondary ticket exchanges set up by sports teams, which both Ticketmaster and operate. In these systems, a would-be seller of a ticket posts it for sale at a virtual exchange window. When a transaction is completed, the original ticket's bar code is invalidated and a ticket with a new bar code is created. The buyer can have the ticket mailed, pick it up at the box office or print it at home. The bar code is scanned when the holder enters the event to verify that the new ticket is genuine.

        Double Play Ticket Window, created for season-ticket holders of the San Francisco Giants and operated by, is one such secondary market ticket exchange. Only season-ticket holders can post tickets for resale, and they can set the price at or above the face value of a primary ticket, according to Russ Stanley, the vice president for ticket services and client relations for the Giants. "It's occurring anyway in the parking lot, but this is a safe way to secure tickets," he said.

        Ticketmaster's version of the secondary market forum, TeamExchange, is used by 17 professional and collegiate teams. Madison Square Garden was among the first arenas to use TeamExchange, for tickets to the Knicks, Rangers and Liberty. Sean Moriarity, Ticketmaster's executive vice president for technology, said that TeamExchange had a rules engine built into its operation to insure that all sales comply with state and local laws. "It looks at the venue location, what the team-specific rules may or may not be and where the buyers or sellers are located," Mr. Moriarity said. "We want to make sure the transaction is good on all fronts." TeamExchange also offers a print-at-home option. Ticket auctions at eBay use a similar rules engine.

        Ticketmaster is also experimenting with online ticket auctions. Last month it auctioned tickets for the Lennox Lewis-Vitali Klitschko heavyweight title fight at Staples Center in Los Angeles. Mr. Moriarity said that Ticketmaster planned to offer auctions regularly service by year's end.

        StubHub offers tickets for sports, concerts, theater and arts events, and provides a forum for individuals to sell unwanted tickets. Users can buy and sell tickets for Broadway shows, entertainers' appearances in Las Vegas and the 2003 Christmas show at Radio City Music Hall. There are even tickets available for popular minor league baseball teams like the Brooklyn Cyclones.

        For sports events, StubHub offers various ways to buy secondary tickets online: through the Web sites of teams that work with it, through StubHub's own site, or through links to one of the company's media partners.

        "Whether we work with a team or not, we allow and we have tickets for any event, any team in the country," said Eric Baker, the president StubHub. A pull-down menu on the site displays events in regions and cities in the United States and Canada. StubHub places few restrictions on sellers; tickets can be posted for auction, sold at a fixed price, or discounted each day leading up to an event.

        StubHub also works with artists and entertainers to set aside front-row tickets to be auctioned for charity as part of packages that might also include backstage passes and autographed memorabilia. Such auctions have been held for performances by Ellen DeGeneres and for coming appearances by Christina Aguilera and others.

        So before you find yourself standing outside an arena scanning the crowd and asking, "Got two for tonight?," keep in mind the online options.


        Early Check-in for Flights

        TIP OF THE DAY
        Early Check-in for Flights

        Most airlines now allow you to check-in or obtain security documents via the Internet within 24 hours of your flight.  This allows you to pick your seat and/or print out a boarding pass or security document, saving significant time at the airport because you use the boarding pass or security document to get past security without having to check-in at the airline's airport counter.



        TIP OF THE DAY

        In the first TOTD ever, we discussed combining the Winkey (Windows key) with various letters to achieve certain shortcuts.  Here is another: the Alt and Tab key.  If you are running more than one program, hold the Alt key (next to the space bar) and press & release the Tab key (keep holding the Alt key).  In the middle of your screen you will see an icon of each program that you are running, with a box around one of thew programs.  Press the tab key (while still holding the alt key) until the program you want to switch to has a box around it.  When you release the Alt key, windows will switch to the program you chose.  You can return to the last program you were viewing by pressing Alt-Tab once.  This is a really useful shortcut for switching quickly between Word documents you are editing.

        Stop Telemarking Calls

        TIP OF THE DAY
        Stop Telemarking Calls

        The Federal Trade Commission has created a national Do Not Call list for telemarketers.  After a number is registered, commercial telemarketers will be required to remove that number from their call list within three months.  Penalties for calling those on the do-not-call list can range up to $11,000 per unwanted call.
        The only exceptions are charities, politicians and, if you have a very recent business relationship, a business can call for a short period of time after the purchase.
        It is very easy to sign up, and you can register up to 3 phone numbers per email address, including your cell phone.