[Paleopsych] Urban Legends Reference Pages: Inboxer Rebellion (Full Faith and Credit Card)
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Thu Apr 14 14:39:08 UTC 2005
Urban Legends Reference Pages: Inboxer Rebellion (Full Faith and Credit
Claim: E-mail from lawyer gives good advice about preventive steps
to protect against credit card theft.
Example: [Collected via e-mail, 2002]
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.
A corporate attorney sent this out to the employees in his company. I
pass it along, for your information.
We've all heard horror stories about fraud that's committed using your
name, address, SSN, credit, etc. Unfortunately I (the author of this
piece who happens to be an attorney) have firsthand knowledge, because
my wallet was stolen last month and within a week the thieve(s)
ordered an expensive monthly cell phone package, applied for a VISA
credit card, had a credit line approved to buy a Gateway computer,
received a PIN number from DMV to change my driving record information
online, and more.
But here's some critical information to limit the damage in case this
happens to you or someone you know. As everyone always advises, cancel
your 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 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).
But here's what is perhaps most important: (I never ever thought to do
this). Call the three national credit-reporting organizations
immediately, place a fraud alert on your name and SSN. 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
By the time I was advised to do this, almost 2 weeks after the theft,
all the damage had been done.
There are records of all the credit checks initiated by the thieves'
purchases, none of which I knew about before placing the alert. Since
then, no additional damage has been done, and the thieves threw my
wallet away this weekend (someone turned it in). It seems to have
stopped them in their tracks.
The numbers are:
Experian (formerly TRW): 1-888-397-3742
Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289
Social Security Administration (fraud line): 1-800-269-0271
We pass along jokes -- we pass along just about everything. Do think
about passing this information along. It could really help someone.
Origins: With the amount of junk circulating on the Internet, a
healthy dose of skepticism about anonymous advice offered through
e-mail forwards is appropriate. But given the number of readers who
have written to us inquire whether the straightforward, commensensical
advice quoted above (which began circulating in January 2002) about
how to avoid credit scams is itself a scam, some people are taking
this skepticism stuff a bit too far.
Keeping a list of one's credit card account numbers and the phone
numbers to call to report lost or stolen cards is rather obvious
advice no one should need to be told, but even those who have never
gotten around to compiling such a list should be able to retrieve the
information from any previous credit card statement.
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 phone numbers given in the message above for the top
three credit bureaus are correct.)
Our advice: Take some good advice.
In September 2002 versions of the e-mail quoted above began appearing
with the following lead-in.
[Collected via e-mail, 2002]
A corporate attorney sent the following out to the employees in his
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
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 # on your checks instead of your home phone. 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 SS# printed on your checks (DUH!). You can add it if
it is necessary, but if you have it printed, anyone can get it.
Some of the advice in this added-on preface is worth heeding -- leave
your Social Security number off your checks and list your PO box
address rather than your home address.
But some of the advice is only half right -- rather than providing a
work number in place of a home telephone number, we have to ask why
either needs to be included. If a merchant requires a phone number,
the information can always written on the face of the check at the
time of the transaction. Likewise, rather than including only the last
four digits of a credit card number in the memo field of the check, a
better course of action is to leave that line blank. The preprinted
slip the credit card holder returns along with his payment is all the
credit card issuer needs to ensure payment is allocated against the
And one bit of the proffered advice is just plain wrong -- listing
initials in place of the account holder's first name in the vague hope
the issuing bank will spot an improperly signed check is right up
there with wishing bread was 39¢ a loaf. We've seen checks we'd
forgotten to sign go through our accounts. If a bank fails to question
blank signature lines, it's not up to the task of scrutinizing each
signature to see if it matches what it remembers of how that account
holder signs his name.
Last updated:  10 June 2003
Urban Legends Reference Pages
by Barbara and David P. Mikkelson
Urban Legends Reference Pages
Inboxer Rebellion Inboxer Rebellion
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