[Paleopsych] Urban Legends Reference Pages: Inboxer Rebellion (Full Faith and Credit Card)

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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.

    Status:   True.

    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:

    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

    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 [4]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 [5]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]

    Important Safeguards!

    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
    correct account.

    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: &nbsp10 June 2003

Urban Legends Reference Pages
by Barbara and David P. Mikkelson
    [7]Urban Legends Reference Pages
    Inboxer Rebellion [8]Inboxer Rebellion


    1. http://www.snopes.com/
    2. http://www.snopes.com/
    3. http://www.burstnet.com/ads/ad1874c-map.cgi
    4. http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft/
    5. http://www.ckfraud.org/credit.html
    6. http://www.snopes.com/inboxer/scams/scams.htm#credit
    7. http://www.snopes.com/index.html
    8. http://www.snopes.com/inboxer/inboxer.htm#inboxer

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