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Missing Wallet? Make Haste

Identity theft is a major problem at any state, including South Carolina. Take immediate action the minute you notice your wallet or purse is missing. Thieves often want more than cash when snatching your belongings; they want to assume your identity. The direct steps you take can make the difference between some missing money and months (or years) of headaches and frustration.

In case of an emergency, your HOA and The Federal Trade Commission suggest that you follow these specific steps:

File a report with police immediately. This provides needed proof of the crime for your bank, credit card company and insurance company.

Cancel each credit card. Ask for new cards and new account numbers. Then, call the major credit reporting agencies to report missing cards and place a fraud alert on your accounts. Equifax: (800) 525-6285. Experian: (888) 397-3742. TransUnion: (800) 680-7289. While on the phone, ask for credit reports to search for any discrepancies.

Call your utility company. Inform them someone may try to receive new service with your identification.

Contact the Social Security Administration. Call (800) 772-1213.

Report the loss to your bank. Cancel checking and savings accounts. Open new ones, and stop payments on outstanding checks. Ask for a new ATM card, account number and PIN or password.

Call the state department of motor vehicles. Report your missing driver’s license. Get a new number that’s not your social security number.

Change the locks. If keys to your car, home or office were stolen, you don’t want to give an identity thief access to even more personal property and information.

Contact your insurance companies. Prevent an identity thief from adding himself or herself to your policies.

Once you take these steps, pay close attention to your accounts. Be your own fraud investigator by taking notes of everyone you speak to, the date and time of the call and what you talked about.

It’s always important to be wary of thieves. Try not to stuff your purse or wallet with all your things—from your checkbook, pay stubs and credit cards to ATM cards, driver’s license and health insurance cards. Try to only carry what’s most important because it can take many years to recover from identity theft because thieves can hold onto your information and trade it with others. Order your free credit report annually to watch for suspicious charges or accounts.

Thieves in the Waste Basket

Most—but not all—identity theft now occurs electronically. But your identity can still be easily scored by thieves who make use of what you toss in your waste basket, too. Because of this, it is always best to reduce any risks of becoming a victim, especially when living in South Carolina. Your HOA recommends multiple strategies to help prevent any form of identity theft.

Trash facilities and recycling centers, for example, can be gold mines of personal information for enterprising dumpster divers. That is, unless you shred documents that contain identifying information such as charge receipts, credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements, canceled checks and bank statements and even expired charge cards.

Beware also of those bothersome credit offers you often get in the mail and end up tossing unopened into the trash—particularly the pre-approved variety. Clever scammers complete these blank applications, obtain a credit card in your name, charge it to the limit and close the account before you receive the first billing statement. To protect yourself, all you have to do is tear the unopened envelop in half once or twice before tossing it in the waste basket.

Better yet, you can eliminate these prescreened credit offers from your mailbox by calling 1-888-5-OPT-OUT (1-888-567-8688) to opt out. You’ll be asked to provide your Social Security number so the consumer reporting companies can match you with your file.

Also, deposit your outgoing mail containing personally identifying information in post office collection boxes or at your local post office, rather than in an unsecured mailbox. Promptly remove mail from your mailbox. If you’re planning to be away from home and can’t pick up your mail, contact the U.S. Postal Service at 1-800-275-8777 or online at to request a vacation hold. The Postal Service will hold your mail at your local post office until you can pick it up or are home to receive it.

Your HOA strongly encourages association members to take precaution when handling any personal information to protect their identity.

The Federal Trade Commission has more information on identity theft and prevention tips at


Tips for Protecting Your Identity during the Holidays

Identity theft is an ongoing problem throughout the year, even in South Carolina. But, while consumers are focused on giving during the holiday season, crooks are focused on taking. If there’s one thing you don’t need, it is dealing with identity theft during the holidays. Your HOA recommends that you take every precaution. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) offers the following tips to help consumers protect themselves during the busy holiday season:

  • Be aware of your surroundings. Sidewalks and malls will be crowded and shoppers will be distracted—the perfect combination for a pick-pocket. If someone bumps into you, don’t assume it was an accident. Women should clutch purses closely at their side or in front of them with the wallet hidden at the bottom. Men should stow wallets in an inside coat pocket.
  • Guard your PIN number at the ATM. Be aware of anyone lurking around the ATM, and if someone is standing too close, simply ask him or her to step back. Thieves can also install devices that read your information at the ATM without you knowing it. If you notice anything unusual about the ATM, use a different one, and report what you’ve seen to the bank.
  • Don’t carry large sums of cash with you. Charge your purchases or use a debit card. Just remember that credit cards offer some protections that debit cards don’t. When you use a credit card, you can dispute a purchase before paying for it. With a debit card, the money is removed from your account at the time of the purchase, allowing a thief the ability to wipe out your entire checking or savings account before you ever realize the theft has taken place.
  • Don’t let your credit card out of your sight. Unscrupulous clerks or waiters can copy your card information or swipe your card into a second card reader and later make a new credit card for themselves. Worse yet, they can sell your information to an organized crime ring.
  • Lighten your wallet. Remove anything from your wallet that you don’t absolutely need to have with you. That way, if someone is successful in stealing it, they won’t get as much. Never carry your Social Security card with you, but check other cards that might use your SS# as an identifier. If you’re not going to be using your checkbook, leave it at home.
  • Keep up with all receipts. Not only will you need them to make returns easily, but crooks are very interested in stealing the information they contain. Never stuff the receipts into your car visor or leave them exposed in any way.
  • Make copies of your credit cards. Copy both sides of all your cards. If you lose your wallet, you’ll have easy access to all of your account numbers and phone numbers, allowing you to alert your bank immediately.
  • Open your credit card statements as soon as they arrive. Check the bill for any unauthorized purchases. Even better, keep a watchful eye on your accounts by going online and reviewing your accounts each week. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, report it immediately to your bank. Doing so will likely remove any payment responsibility you might have for fraudulent purchases.
  • Consider signing up for a credit monitoring service. Such services alert you via email anytime there is an inquiry or other activity to your credit report. In other words, if someone tries to open an account in your name, you’ll know about it. Such services are offered by all of the major credit reporting bureaus, and could be money well-spent.
  • Secure all personal information even while at home. Unfortunately, there have been many instances where an ID thief is someone we know. That’s always something to keep in mind during the holidays when you may have guests in your home. Remove temptation by putting personal information out of sight.
  • Order your credit report. Consumers are allowed one free credit report every 12 months from each of the three bureaus. Order a report now from one bureau, and order another one in three to six months from a different bureau. This will give you a good snapshot of activity and will alert you to anything unusual.

In spite of all your efforts, if you are victimized by ID theft, contact an NFCC Member Agency for help. Their certified counselors can walk you through the steps to recovery. To find the agency closest to you, dial (800) 388-2227, or go online To locate a Spanish speaking counselor, call (800) 682-9832.

For more information and tips about identity theft visit NFCC at



Online Shopping Safety: Credit Card, Debit Card or Check?

Merchants are making online shopping increasingly convenient these days, by accepting not only credit cards, but debit cards and checks. However, according to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (PRC) and your homeowners association, the safest way to shop online is with a credit card. If something were to go wrong, you’re protected under the federal Fair Credit Billing Act.

  • Here are other online shopping tips from PRC that your HOA highly suggest you follow:
  • Ÿ Use a true credit card—not a debit card, check card or an ATM card. A debit card exposes your bank account to thieves. Your checking account could be wiped out in minutes. Also, federal law does not protect debit and ATM cards as extensively as it does credit cards.
  • Ÿ Use a “virtual credit card,” if possible. Some banks are now offering their credit card customers a free service called single-use card numbers. Virtual credit cards use a randomly-generated, substitute account number so you never need to give out your real credit card number online, over the phone or through the mail.
  • Ÿ Don’t pay for online purchases with a check, since checks are vulnerable to bank fraud. Even mailing a check or money order won’t give you any protection if you have problems with the purchase.
  • Ÿ Use one credit card exclusively for all your online shopping. This makes it easier to spot unauthorized charges.

Among the card companies offering this service are Citibank, who uses its program called Virtual Account Number. Bank of America’s service is called ShopSafe and Discover refers to its service as Secure Online Account Number. You identify the expiration date and credit limit, which adds a layer of protection. Once a credit card is used, the card is tied to the merchant where it was last used, and cannot be used elsewhere.