Staff SGT Donald Wayne West, Jr., enlisted in the United States Army National Guard on September 11, 2001. As part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Company A of the 150th Combat Engineers served active duty Aug 29, 2004, until Dec 30, 2005. SSGT West returned to college in January, 2006. He married Lauren Ritchie June 9, 2006, at Seaside, Fla., and they have three children. SSGT West completed military service at Camp Minden, LA on Aug 23, 2009.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Day 208 - Credit Card Two-Step

Citibank television ads use voiceovers to bring home the point that a lot can go wrong if someone obtains your personal information through identity theft or credit card fraud. Military families can be especially vulnerable targets.

Follow these steps to avoid having to dig yourself out of a deep hole.

1. The next time you order checks, have only your initials (instead of first name) and last name printed. If someone takes your checkbook, they won't know whether to sign the checks with your initials or your first name. Your bank, however, will know how you sign your checks.

2. Do not sign the back of your credit cards. Instead, put "PHOTO ID REQUIRED".

3. When writing checks to pay credit card bills, DO NOT put the complete account number on the "For" line. Instead, record only the last four numbers. The credit card company knows the rest of the number, but anyone handling your check as it passes through all the check processing channels won't have access to it.

4. Put your work phone number instead of your home phone on your checks. If you have a P.O. Box, use that address instead of your home address. If you don't have a P.O. Box, use your work address. Never have your social security number printed on your checks. Add it by hand, only if necessary; but not at all, if avoidable. Once recorded, anyone can get it.

5. Place the contents of your wallet on a photocopy machine. Copy both sides of each license, credit card, etc. This record will verify what you had in your wallet with all of the account numbers and phone numbers to call and cancel.

Keep the photocopy in a safe place. Store a photocopy of your passport for extra protection.

If you or someone you know is the victim of identity theft or credit card fraud, follow these steps:

1. Cancel your credit cards immediately. Keep toll free numbers with records of your card numbers in a safe place to know what and where to report.

2. File a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where your information was stolen. This proves due diligence to credit providers, a typcial first question in any investigation.

3. Most importantly, call the three national credit reporting companies immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and Social Security number. Any company checking your credit will know from this alert your information has been stolen. They will now have to contact you by phone to authorize new credit.

* Social Security Administration (fraud line): 1-800-269-0271

* Equifax: 1-800-525-6285

* Experian (formerly TRW): 1-888-397-3742

* Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289
Hat tip to my sister, Teresa, for good advice how to Check It Out and Lock It In.