Nassau County Legislator Roger Corbin warns residents to protect themselves from the panic, confusion, and inconvenience experienced after becoming the victim of fraud and identity theft. Simple precautionary steps can make a difference.

"There are many ways you can protect yourself prior to becoming the victim of fraud," he said. "Keeping a locked file at home with copies of credit cards, insurance cards, etc. and who you should contact to report your loss can expedite the process and protect you from financial ruin."

• Do not sign the back of your credit cards. Instead, write "photo ID required" in the signature space

• When paying your credit card by check only put the last four numbers on the memo line. This way anyone handling your check as it is processed will not have access to the credit card number

• Do not put your home phone number or home address on your check. Put your work contact information on it instead

• Photocopy all information in your wallet keeping this information, as well as the account phone numbers to call and cancel in a safe place

• File a police report immediately in the area where your credit cards, etc. were stolen. This is the first step toward an investigation

• Call the three national credit reporting organizations and the Social Security fraud number immediately to place a fraud alert. This will notify any company that checks your credit that your information was stolen. They'll be contacting you by phone before authorizing any new credit.

• After reporting identity theft to the credit card companies the credit hold is only good for 90 days. In order to retain this security, it is worthwhile to have long term credit checks placed on your social security number.

• Keep the following credit reporting organizations and social security contact information handy: Equifax: (http://www.equifax.com/), 1-800-525-6285; Experian: (http://www.experian.com/)(formerlyTRW), 1-888-397-3742; Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289; and

Social Security Administration (fraud line), 1-800-269-0271.

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