Play Credit Cop

You set your car alarm, insure your honey's handsome earning potential, and have a rider covering that Bicentennial quarter collection stashed in the lower left-hand drawer of the guest room dresser. So, how about a little protection for your good name and well-earned credit record?

There are plenty of products to guard your credit and keep identity thieves at bay. But we're fans of financial self-defense, as recently discussed on the Consumer Credit discussion board. Here are three protective measures you can put into action right now -- that is, after you're done reading the next 353 words.

1. Photocopy the contents of your wallet. Make a record of all your credit cards, driver's license, and insurance cards, and any other items that contain personal information and access to a line of credit, discount, or rewards. Xerox both the front and back of all cards, and then put the copies in a safe place. Should your wallet go missing, you'll have a record of its contents and quick access to the phone numbers you need to cancel your cards. When you get a sec, also photocopy your passport.

2. Write yourself a note on your check re-order form. If you still use old-fashioned checks, next time you replenish your supply, delete all personal information that isn't required. That includes your Social Security number, driver's license number, home phone, and favorite color. Sure, a thief can get access to all of this information should he be so inclined. But you might as well make him work for it.

3. Take your name off junk mail lists. It's easy to get the ball rolling, but it might take a while to see the effects of turning off the spigot. Pick up the phone and opt out of pre-approved credit card offers by calling 888-5OPTOUT (888-567-8688).

Slow the slew of catalogs, mailers, and dating-service spam your mother signed you up for by contacting the Direct Marketing Association and giving them your first, middle, and last names (including Jr., Sr., III, and "Bunny"), current address, and home area code and telephone number (for phone opt-out service). Send your info to both the Mail Preference Service at P.O. Box 643, Carmel, NY 10512 and the Telephone Preference Service at P.O. Box 1559, Carmel, NY 10512. Fewer solicitations in your mailbox and trash can mean fewer opportunities for a thief to get credit in your good name.

This list is not all-inclusive, but it should give you a little more peace of mind. Now, go refill your coffee mug and make a pit stop at the Xerox machine with your wallet. Should you find yourself a victim of identity theft, here's a rundown of what to do.




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