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VOICES / A Forum for Community Issues | Gripe

What Should You Do?

September 19, 1998

JOE PAULO

Detective, financial crimes division, LAPD

The very first thing anyone should do is notify the local police authority. Then get in touch with credit card companies right away. Every credit card company has an 800 number that can be used to report a lost or stolen card. Keep records and numbers readily available for this purpose. They will close the account and issue new numbers and new accounts. If there is any delay in reporting, it gives thieves that much more time to take advantage and also your credibility with the card companies is hurt too. Companies will question how it is that your card was missing for so long and you either didn't notice or you failed to call immediately. You increase your civil liability the longer you wait.

Call the bank and report stolen ATM cards and checkbooks. Cancel both. Some people think that just putting a stop payment on checks will remedy the situation. But these kinds of thieves know every trick in the book. Why take the chance that they have a couple of your checks? Cancel both accounts and reorder new checks and a new card. Most banks give temporary checks. Yes, there is the inconvenience of not having access to your money but it beats the alternative.

If someone is calling to supposedly verify something, question it. Any company that you are doing business with already knows your information so turn the question around and ask them to repeat the information to you. Ask for their name and a return number that you call them back on. Immediately call your credit card company's 800 number and let them know what just took place, giving the name of the person and the number. More often than not both are bogus but now your card company is on the alert.

If anyone is trying to solicit information, be very suspicious. Don't give any kind of information on the phone. Never assume one card company will contact another company for you. Report each card, including bank cards, separately.

Most people tell us that they had a gut feeling something was not right, but they didn't go with it. If it doesn't feel or sound right, go with your instincts.

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