When Crooks Get Your Numbers

You can’t be too careful in guarding your personal and business accounts.

The risk of cargo theft is bad enough, but it isn’t the only type of larceny you face on the road. Identity theft, which continues to spread due to the increasing use of credits cards and the Internet, poses many problems for truckers, who must conduct cash and credit transactions from remote sites and often cannot monitor personal accounts while away from home.

The classic mistake for owner-operators is loudly giving out a truck number or trip number at a fuel desk, says Randy Price, security director for Prime Inc. “Everyone in earshot of that has the potential of making a mental note or writing the number down,” he says of a practice he calls, “one of the oldest scams in the book.” Then the thief calls the fleet with a sob story about needing quick money for a flat tire or a tow. Prime, like many fleets with active security departments, has verification procedures that flag most such fraud incidents. Nevertheless, don’t take chances by needlessly broadcasting sensitive data.

Far less common is theft of commercial driver’s license identity. Still, it happens. In 2001, a Pennsylvania court sentenced William Nicastro to three years in prison for tampering with another trucker’s CDL to drive over-the-road for various fleets. Keep close tabs on your license card and be cautious about giving out your license number.

Other problems involve credit cards and checking accounts. Here are some tips for guarding critical information:

  • Make a list of phone numbers for reporting missing credit cards. Keep one copy at home, one in your truck.
  • Photocopy both sides of your credit cards and other contents of your wallet. Keep a copy in a secure place. Also, list any bank account numbers not reflected in your wallet list.
  • Check every bank statement, cell phone bill and credit card bill for signs of fraudulent activity.
  • Memorize any PIN you use rather than keeping it written in your wallet.
  • Stay away from an ATM if suspicious people are around. Shield your keystrokes if someone is nearby.
  • Shred or destroy credit card receipts, credit card solicitations and canceled checks rather than putting them untouched in your garbage.
  • Put a cell phone and P.O. address on your checks instead of a home phone and address.
  • Never put your Social Security number on your checks.
  • Have re-ordered checks sent to a P.O. box or your bank, not your home.
  • Never carry your Social Security card or birth certificate in your wallet.

  • WHEN YOU’RE A VICTIM

    If your wallet is stolen or you detect fraudulent activity related to your accounts, take action as quickly as possible.

  • Call the three national credit reporting organizations to put a fraud alert on your name and Social Security number. Whenever a company checks your credit, it will have to get direct approval from you before new credit is authorized.
  • File a police report. Get a copy in case you need to submit it elsewhere.
  • Call the Social Security fraud line, (800) 269-0271.

  • CREDIT REPORTING AGENCIES

    Equifax
    (800) 525-6285

    Experian (formerly TRW)
    (888) 397-3742

    Trans Union
    (800) 680-7289


    FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION

    Lots of information on identity theft, including a form that can be used for reporting identity theft to any company, is available at www.consumer.gov/idtheft.

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