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Airline Mismanagement

Sooner or later, you're inevitably going to lose - or have stolen - your wallet and the valuables contained therein.

The information in this article will help you to minimize the inconvenience and problems such a loss would otherwise create.

 
 
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Protect Yourself Against Document Loss

11 Ways to protect against document loss
 

Don't make it easy for a thief to steal your cash, your credit cards, and your identity

Follow the steps suggested in this series and you and your valuables will be much more secure.

Part 2 of a 3 part series - click for Parts  One  Two  Three

 

 

The loss of vital documents can be a crippling inconvenience at the best of times.

But if you follow the suggestions below, you'll minimize the dangers inherent in losing documents, and be able to recover from the inconvenience as quickly as possible.


1. Carry Copies of Your Master List of Valuables

In part one we spoke about preparing a master list of all your important personal documents. This list will be an essential help to you when recovering from the loss of some or all of the items on the list, and so, in theory, it is something you should always carry with you.

But.

This same list is as valuable to a thief as it is to you. They can use this information to totally take over your identity. You want to protect the information on this master list as carefully as you do the actual documents themselves.

We suggest that you adopt a simple type of encryption on the data that you're recording, so that if anyone else sees the data without knowing that is has been coded, it will be useless to them. But your coding will need to be very simple so that you can remember it, and so that you can both encrypt and decrypt the information without problems.

The good news is that it is only necessary to encrypt account numbers and other identifiers. You can quite safely write down 'My Platinum American Express card number is' but then encrypt the number, before safely adding 'and to call customer service to report its loss, I'd dial (and then the number you'd dial)'.

Here are three simple ways to encrypt your information.

Transposition : Swap the order of some of the digits in the numbers. For example, if you have a Visa card number

4012 3456 7890 1234

You could swap the first and second digits, and maybe also the third and fourth, and so on. This would make it (if you transposed all digits, which isn't really necessary)

0421 4365 8709 2143

Modification : Perhaps you might choose to just add a number to every account number you have, or perhaps to every digit in the account number. Maybe you might decide to add 123 to every account number, or perhaps you might decide to add 2 to each digit. This would make the Visa card number above into

4012 3456 7890 1357 or 6234 5678 9012 3456

Reversal : Maybe you simply reverse part or all of the number. You might decide to reverse the entire number or perhaps just the last four digits. This would make your Visa number

4321 0987 6543 2104 or 4012 3456 7890 4321

There are many other simple ways you can make your numbers safer. Note that you need to change at least two digits in an account number to make it unusable by a thief. The key thing is to come up with a system that is simple for you and then to always use it.

Of course you still want to protect this master list, but with the encryption, it is now less likely to be useful to a thief if lost or stolen.

Having encrypted your data, keep two copies with you when you travel, in two different places, so that if one is lost/stolen, the other will likely still be available to you.

Leave additional encrypted copies at work and at home, so they could be safely faxed to you in an emergency. And keep the master unencrypted copy somewhere very safe, like a bank safety deposit box.

2. Keep Local Numbers as well as (800) Contact Numbers

Be sure to keep, on your master list of valuables, both (800) numbers that you can use within the US and also regular numbers with area code and phone number that you can use if outside the US. It is difficult to call an (800) number from outside the US, and, if you can, might end up being more costly than if you directly called the regular number.

3. Split Your Valuables

Don't carry everything in the one place. For example, perhaps you could have your driver's license in one place and your credit cards in another place. That way, if you lose one container of valuables, you don't lose everything, and neither does anyone who stole (or innocently finds) your valuables get everything.

4. Keep a Spare Credit Card Somewhere Else

Always travel with two credit cards, so that if one is damaged or destroyed or stolen, or if the credit card company starts refusing your charges (which they sometimes do if you're traveling a long way from home for fear that your card might have been stolen), or if you just go over your limit (!), you have a second card backup.

For greater protection, don't have both cards the same - that is, don't carry two Visa cards. Carry one Visa (or Mastercard) and one Amex, perhaps. That also will protect you in case the merchant you're buying something from has a problem with their own account with one of the credit card companies

5. Keep an Emergency Stash of Cash

Keep a small amount of cash somewhere - separate from your main supply of cash and valuables, so that, if everything else of value is stolen or lost, you still have enough emergency money to take a taxi to somewhere, to make a phone call or two, and to buy a meal or two. If possible, it would be good to have some small notes - for conveniently purchasing small items - and some larger notes as well.

6. Keep Duplicate Keys

If you have a trusted friend or neighbor, give them a complete set of duplicate keys to everything that you regularly lock. This would include house keys, car keys, work keys, desk and file cabinet keys, safe keys - anything that you regularly use a key with should have a duplicate key kept somewhere.

For convenience, things like house keys could also be kept hidden somewhere not far from your front door (but not in an artificial stone!).

7. Color Photocopies

Keep color photocopies of important documents such as your driver's license and passport. While obviously not the real thing, they can be more persuasive if you find yourself stranded without the original documents, and can also help you to convince suspicious officials that you did once really have the originals.

You should also have regular (not necessarily color) copies of any important documents that you might need while traveling such as prepaid tour vouchers, confirmations, and other similar documents. These copies will often be accepted in lieu of the original documents, or, if not, the information on them can help you to get replacements.

8. Emergency Cash in a Flash

The quickest, easiest, and probably most reliable way to get cash, anywhere in the world, is via Western Union. They have 150,000 offices in 187 countries - you're never far from a Western Union agent.

Best of all, they will even pay up to $1000 of cash to you without you having to show ID, so if you've lost your ID, you can still collect the money.

All you need to do is get a friend or colleague to pay money in to a Western Union office (or even to do it over the internet or by phone using a credit card) and then within an hour or less, the money is available for you to collect from any location, anywhere in the world!

This is not a cheap way to send money - it can cost you up to 10% to transfer money this way - but in an emergency it is absolutely the most bullet proof way to get money quickly that exists.

9. US Consular Offices

If traveling overseas, research the location and contact details of US Consular offices before you go, and keep this information with you. If you need a replacement for your passport, or have some other type of emergency where you need a friendly US official to help out, they will be the place to turn to.

10. File a Police Report

This can potentially be a major hassle, and you may or may not choose to do this, but it is generally recommended that if you have a loss of valuables that might result in claiming insurance against the loss, or which might result in liability if stolen credit cards, etc, are fraudulently used, you should file a police report wherever you are upon discovering your loss.

Insurance companies generally require this before they'll pay on a claim, and it shows good faith to credit card issuers as well. If you do everything that they can reasonably expect to mitigate the loss, then they in turn are more likely to be positively cooperative.

11. Three Vital Institutions to Report Your Loss

If you've had credit cards and other personal documents stolen, then as well as immediately calling the companies that issued these cards and documents, you should call the three national credit reporting companies and ask them to place a 'fraud alert' on your account.

This 'fraud alert' means that if the person with your stolen identity then tries to use it to open new credit accounts, or to change your present accounts, there is an increased chance (but, alas, not a certainty) that any companies involved in this who choose to check your credit history will be advised of a potential problem and hopefully they'll then contact you by phone to confirm your identity.

In theory, if you call one of the three companies, they will pass the information on to the other two companies as well. But if you have spare time, best to call all three to be sure! The three major credit reporting companies and their special fraud reporting numbers are :

Read more in Parts 1 & 3

In Part 1 we introduce the dangers, problems and risks that are involved with the loss of 30 different types of personal information.

In Part 3 we suggest easy steps you can take to reduce the harm that might occur if someone does get your vital documents and ID. By following these strategies, there is less likelihood of you suffering ID or any other type of theft.
 

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Originally published 16 May 2003, last update 19 Dec 2013

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

 
 
Related Articles
Protect Yourself Against Document Loss part 1
Document Loss part 2
Document Loss part 3
Securikey Computer Protection review
Effective Password Management
Roboform Password Manager review
 
 

 


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