This past week I returned from visiting my sister in San Jose, California, a beautiful, multicultural city. I also traveled to San Francisco, in memory of my late husband, who loved the city dearly.
Now, let's turn to something that one needs to be careful about while on vacation — your credit cards. As I made my way around I saw lots of people using credit cards without much thought. I saw people getting their cards back wrapped in the receipt, not checking to see if it was their card. I saw people placing credit cards in back pockets of their pants or just throwing them into purses. Some of these issues are a nightmare waiting to happen!
Therefore, after vacation you need to make sure your cards were not compromised. When the bills start coming in, pay close attention to the charges and match them to your receipts — those little white papers you get back after a purchase! (You need to collect all of them!) If there are charges you didn't make, please follow the procedures below immediately:
▪ • Close the accounts that you know or believe have been tampered with.
▪ File a police report and submit it to your creditors and others who may require proof of the crime.
▪ Contact the fraud department of the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit file.
▪ File your complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.consumer.gov/idtheft. The FTC maintains a database of identity theft cases used by law enforcement agencies for investigations.
You can also call the FTC hot line: 877-IDTHEFT (877-438-4338).
▪ Order your credit report. The Fair Credit Reporting Act allows you to get one free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus once per year. I space mine out through the year, ordering one from each company. I start with one before vacation, then one after vacation and then one after the Christmas holidays. This will let you see if and when a problem occurs.
You can get the credit agencies' names from www.annualcreditreport.com/ or by calling 877-322-8228.
▪ Correct all mistakes on your credit report in writing. Send a letter to the credit-reporting agency identifying the problems item by item. Include a copy of the credit report and send the letter return receipt requested.
▪ Make a copy of all your credit card account numbers and bank account numbers with customer service numbers and keep it in a safe place before you travel.
So enjoy your vacation, but please pay attention when using your credit card. And keep it close to you, so that you don't become a victim and turn your vacation into a nightmare.
Until next time, be safe and be alert.
Carmen Caldwell is executive director of Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami-Dade. Send feedback and news for this column to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call her at 305-470-1670.