12 Steps To Protect Yourself From Identity Theft

AllFinancialMatters posted 12 steps to protecting yourself from the threat of identity theft. We like 1 and 4 in particular, which have to do with how much information you put on the checks you order.

1. The next time you order checks have only your initials (instead of first name) and last name put on them. If someone takes your checkbook, 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.

4. Put your work phone number on your checks instead of your home phone. If possible, use your work address.

We covered some of the other 10 before, but it’s never bad to get a reminder. — BEN POPKEN

Protect Yourself From Identity Theft [All Financial Matters]
(Photo: d70focus)


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  1. castlecraver says:

    Yet another “identity theft expert” who doesn’t understand that CC companies REQUIRE A SIGNATURE on the back for your card to be VALID.

  2. d0x says:

    CC companies might but 99.999% of stores dont. Hell 99.999% of stores dont even care if you sign random crap next to the X so what difference does it really make?

  3. Marce says:

    #2 really doesn’t work. If your credit/debit card isn’t signed, it’s not valid: a merchant cannot swipe it. And if someone steals THAT, they can sign however they like on the back and you still have to cancel the card. Best bet: sign the card, and try to squeeze in “See ID” somewhere on the signature line. Not all merchants will check it, unfortunately.

  4. Youngman says:

    Last October, I ordered new checks from Bank of America because I was running low. I took the advice about just having your first initial and then last name (X. Lastname). After two weeks, I still had not received them. Then day, I checked my checking account online, and lo and behold, someone had stolen my brand new checks and had written a check for $2000, signing the check with “X. Lastname”. The bank may know your signature, but they don’t care.

  5. mad_oak says:

    Related to absolutely nothing, never give someone a post-dated check. I don’t know a single bank that doesn’t indicate they will cash a check regardless of the Date on the check. (Is that a double negative?)

  6. Die_Fledermaus says:

    Bad idea to put your work address on your checks. At my last company they used to open everyone’s mail. The office manager brought a credit card application to me that had come in my name. The card was for at least 10,000. Luckily he was honest and gave me the application, which i destroyed. He could have easily filled it out, mailed it in and then intercepted the card when it came into the office. I would never have known.

  7. Disgruntled CC Employee says:

    If you put only your initials on the check instead of your name, forget about purchasing in most stores.

    Are the rest of the steps this bad?

  8. TPK says:

    Can anyone verify that banks still actually compare your check signature to a signature card? In this world of automation, I find it highly unlikely.

  9. TPK says:

    Step 7 mentions taking a photocopy of your passport with you when you travel. Another tip I’ve heard is to scan the info page of your passport and e-mail it to yourself at one of the perpetually free web-based e-mail providers. That way, any where you may be in the world, as long as there is an internet connection, you have access to that copy of your passport.

  10. elvisaintdead says:

    This is a good idea for lots of things.
    put a list of insurance policy #s, firearm serial #s, combinations to fire safes, car stereo anti-theft codes (ESPECIALLY good if your battery dies, trust me), etc on a doc and “hide” it in hotmail, gmail etc.
    Chances of that one doc being found are miniscule, and w/o the corresponding name, you’re good to go.

  11. mendel says:

    I don’t get #1. If you put your full name on your check, how do they know whether you sign your name with your full name or your initial? I have my full name on the check, use my nickname day-to-day, and sign with my initial.

  12. zifnab says:

    @d0x: True that stores don’t, but if you have an issue with a purchase and you need the protection of the company, and they find that you did not sign the back, they can (and will, happened to my father) deny you protection because your card is technically invalid. If you don’t want to sign your card, more power to you, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone else. The act of signing it (sorta) invokes the fraud and other protections on the card, thus by not signing the card you may in fact lessen your protection.

  13. swalve says:

    Presumably, the forged signature will be less likely to match your signature card at the bank if the forger doesn’t know your whole name.

  14. faust1200 says:

    In business I’ve seen our checks cashed when we forgot to sign them. In this case I doubt it matters whats scribbled on the line. My checks contain merely my name and city.

  15. magic8ball says:

    @TPK: No, they don’t really check your signature. You could probably sign it “John Lennon” and they wouldn’t notice under most circumstances.

  16. mathew says:

    The #1 tip is Don’t carry checks around with you.

    A check is a really handy way to provide a thief with nearly everything he needs to steal your cash. In addition, you can’t easily cancel stolen checks like you can cancel stolen cards.

    My checkbook never leaves the house.

  17. sr105 says:

    Banks don’t check signatures (often).
    Credit Card companies don’t actually require the cards to be signed if you write “CHECK ID” on it which they all seem to recommend.
    Banks hardly ever look at the dates on checks.

  18. On all my cards [credit and debit], I wrote ‘Ask For ID’, and you’d be surprised how many people actually check. More do than don’t. I always thank them too, for checking.

  19. jovino says:

    The “requirement” for having anything pre-printed on your checks is completley false. My checks only have my first name on them. Nothing else. All that matters with checks is an account number, a routing number, a unique check number and the amount written in long-form. The rest is fluffernutter.

    Back in the day when I worked retail, I used to be a credit card stickler. There had to be a signature on the back and the signature used for the purchase had to match the one on the back. If I could read the signature I would also ensure that it matched the name on the front. If not, I called the bank to authorize the transaction.

    Why was I such a pain in the ass? Well, banks reward cashiers for catching frauds. Most times it’s upwards of $100 per catch. It’s a great perk when scraping by on a minimum-wage salary.

    But, today’s immediate convience concept has been taken too far, and now it’s far too easy to make purchases without the cashier ever physically seeing the card. And, at self-checkout spots cashiers are non-existent.

    So, sign your stuff, don’t leave it lying around and hope for the best.

  20. Dasani says:

    According to the FTC’s data clearinghouse, only 22% of all identity theft cases would ever be prevented by checking your credit card statement or your credit report. So all this credit card talk is missing 80% of the solution. I signed up with CSIdentity.com cause I shopped at TJ Maxx and they lost my data, no matter how careful I am with signatures, shredding etc.

  21. star_ says:

    I don’t worry too much about checks because I only use 1 per month. And that’s only because I have no other option with this particular account.

    Everything else I pay through ACH transfers or credit cards(which get paid by ACH)

  22. star_ says:

    Forgot to add;

    My checks only have my name. No address. No phone number. I’ve used them this way for many years without a problem.

  23. star_ says:

    I think one thing they should have mentioned is opt’ing out of consumer databases. Everyone you do business with from banks to utilities have a privacy policy that allows you to opt out of them giving your information to third parties and using your information for promotional purposes.

    You can also opt out of promotional inquiries with the 4 big credit reporting agencies. The DMA(Direct Marketing Assoc.) also provides a means for opt’ing out.

    This will prevent your data from being passed around all over the place to just about anyone who wants to see it.

    If you ever want to know the reach of consumer databases, get your Lexis-Nexis file. You will probably be shocked over how much personal data they’ve compiled on you.

  24. shdwsclan says:

    Use a debit card, especially one that has the ability to process as a credit card.

  25. Dabo says:

    Great tips, star_ ! Are you calling “lexis-nexis” the 4th credit bureau? How can I get my file from them??