Your free 'It'll never happen to me' insurance policy

It's on the internet and in most newspapers and blogs on a daily basis. Scary news that some unfortunate person has become a victim of an identification rip-off. It's never happened to me because I'm way ahead of the game. I saw this coming years ago when I put that protective shield around me. No, not Saran Wrap - knowledge!

So, I thought I would be generous and pass along the 9 steps to security that will allow you to join the "it'll never happen to me" club. We don't have many members - yet, but the crowd is growing. And if you get stung and lose your shirt, shoes, bank accounts and more, you won't be lighting a candle at church next Sunday and thanking me that you read the newspaper today. Read it and save it. Don't make me tell you twice.

No. 1 - The next time you order checks, have only your initials (instead of first name) and last name put on them. If someone takes your checkbook, they will not know if you sign your checks with just initials or your first name, but your bank will know.

No. 2 - Don't sign the back of your credit cards. Instead, put these words: "PHOTO ID REQUIRED."

No. 3 - When you're writing checks to pay on your credit card accounts, don't put the complete account number on the "for" line at the bottom left. Just use the last 4 digits. The credit card company knows the rest of the number, and anyone who might be handling your check as it passes through all the processing channels will not have access to your account.

No. 4 - Put your work phone number on your checks instead of your home number. If you have a P.O. Box, use it. Never have your home address or Social Security number printed on your checks (duh). Don't make it easy to lose everything you own.

No. 5 - Get out your wallet or purse or whatever you use to carry a license and credit cards right now, and hustle to your nearest photocopy machine. A scanner at home works great, too. Print out both sides of each card, license, medical cards and Social Security cards. Now you'll know what you had in your possession along with all the account numbers and phone numbers if your wallet or purse gets lost or stolen. Just call the numbers and cancel. Oh, and keep the photocopies in a safe place at home or in a safe deposit box. While you're at it, grab your passport, make a copy, and stash it as well.

No. 6 - When you check out of a motel or hotel that uses cards for keys (most all do these days), don't turn the card key in to the front desk or leave it in the room when you check out. Take them home and destroy them. Why? Those little cards have all the personal information you gave the hotel/motel when you checked in, including your name, address, phone numbers, credit card numbers with expiration dates and even the kind of car you drive. Someone with a portable card reader or any employee can access that information with no problem whatsoever and destroy you life in 10 minutes. You didn't know that, did you? I did!

No. 7 - The minute you know you've been "had" by some scammer or thief, use those toll free numbers on the back of your credit cards and make the call. Keep those numbers handy.

No. 8 - File a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where your wallet and/or purse were stolen. This proves to credit providers that you were diligent, and this is the first step toward an investigation (if there ever is one).

No. 9 - As soon as you complete item No. 8, call the three national credit reporting agencies and place a fraud alert on your name and Social Security number. The alert means that any company checking your credit will know your information was stolen, and they must contact you by phone to authorize any new credit. Once thieves know you have taken this step to protect your interests, you will have stopped them dead in their tracks.

Here are the numbers you need to call if you get put on the "hit" list by crooks:

A. Equifax - (800) 525-6285

B. Experian - (888) 397-3742

C. TransUnion - (800) 680-7289

D. Social Security Administration (fraud line): (800) 269-0271

Follow these new rules of the game and you'll be eligible to become a member in good standing of the "it will never happen to me" club. I was going to charge annual dues for this important information but for now, it's free. Pass the Saran Wrap, please.