A corporate attorney sent the following memo out to the employees in his company.

1. The next time you order checks have only your initials, instead of your first and last name, printed on them. Therefore if someone takes your checkbook they will not know if you sign your checks with your initials or your first name and last name. Only your bank will know how you sign your checks.

2. Do not sign the back of your credit cards. Instead, write "PHOTO ID REQUIRED" on the signature line.

3. When you are writing checks to pay your credit card accounts do NOT put the complete account number on the "Memo" line. Instead, just write in the last four numbers only. The credit card company knows the rest of the number and anyone who might be handling your check as it passes through all of the check processing channels will not have access to your full account number.

4. Put your work phone number on your checks instead of your home phone. If you have a P.O. Box use that instead of your home address. If you do not have a P.O. Box use your work address. Never have your Social Security number printed on your checks. You can add it if it is necessary but if you have it pre-printed anyone can use it.

5. Place the contents of your wallet on a photocopy machine. Copy both sides of each license, credit card, etc. You will now know exactly what you had in your wallet and all of the account numbers and phone numbers in the event that you need call and cancel. Keep the photocopy in a safe place. Also, carry a photocopy of your passport when traveling either here or abroad.

6. When you check out of a hotel that uses card keys (and they all seem to do that now) do not turn the keys in. Take them with you and destroy them. Those little cards have all of the information you gave the hotel on them, including your address and credit card numbers. Someone with a card reader, or employee of the hotel, can access the information with no problem whatsoever.

Unfortunately, as an attorney, I have first hand knowledge because my wallet was stolen last month. 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 and received a PIN number from DMV to change my driving record information online.

Here is some critical information to limit the damage in case this happens to you or someone you know!

A. We have been told we should cancel our credit cards immediately. The key is having the toll free numbers and your card numbers handy so you know whom to call. Keep the copies where you can find them easily.

B. File a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where your credit cards, etc. were stolen. This proves to credit providers you were diligent and this is a first step toward an investigation, if there ever is one.

Here is what is perhaps most important of all (I never even thought to do this).

C. Call the three national credit reporting organizations immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and Social Security number. 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 that any company who checks your credit knows your information was stolen and they have to contact you by phone to authorize new credit. By the time I was advised to do this, almost two weeks after the theft, all the damage had already been done. There were records of all of 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 dead in their tracks.

The following are the numbers you always need to contact about your wallet and contents being stolen:

* Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
* Experian (formerly TRW): 1-888-397-3742
* TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
* Social Security Administration(fraud line): 800-269-0271

We pass along jokes on the Internet, we pass along just about everything. Nevertheless,
if you are willing to pass this information along, it could really help someone you care about.

MCD Real Estate Division, Inc.