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Altamont theft underscores need for cardholder diligence

A good way to have all this information available is to place the contents of your wallet on a photocopy machine, and copy both sides of your license and credit cards. This way, you will know all the account numbers to call if you should your wallet be lost or stolen.

Salerno also provided the following Better Business Bureau tips on preventing identity theft:

The next time you order checks, have only your initials, instead of your first name, printed with your last name on them. If someone takes your checkbook, they will not know if you sign your checks with just your initials, but the bank will.

When you are making a credit-card payment by check, don't put the complete account number on the "for" line. Instead, just put the last four numbers, since the credit card company knows the rest of the number.

Have only limited information printed on your checks, and never have your social security or home phone number printed.

If someone calls to offer you a credit card, a prize or other valuable item, never give him or her any personal data and ask them to send you a written application form. If they won't do it, tell them you're not interested and hang up. If they do send you something via mail, make sure it's from a legitimate company, and you can do this by contacting the Better Business Bureau in your area.

Better Business Bureau officials are also warning of thieves using technology to help them scam cardholding.

The Web site states: "When standing in a checkout line at a supermarket, store, gas station or anywhere you may be using your credit card, be watchful of persons using a cell phone. The new phones are capable of photographing your credit card number, your name, and the card's expiration date."

If you do become a victim of credit card fraud, call the three national credit-reporting organizations to place a fraud alert on your name and social security number right away. The alert will notify any company that checks your credit that your card has been stolen, and they will contact you. The three numbers are Equifax, (800) 525-6285; Experian (formerly TRW), (888) 397-3742; and Trans Union, (800) 680-7286.

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