It is everyone's worst nightmare: You are sitting quite peacefully, enjoying your tiki cocktail at Burt's and some fine conversation, when you turn around to notice that your purse/wallet/first born child is gone. It is easy to scoff and say that you'll never be the victim of theft, but it is time to face the fact that Albuquerque is full of sticky-fingered misfits, and you just might be the next victim. This year, Weekly Alibi's Survival Guide takes on the issue of looting by answering some pressing questions about getting screwed by a pickpocket.
A Pound of Prevention ...
I am an extremely cautious sort of fellow, and I want to know what I can do to prepare myself for theft even before it happens! Is this even possible?
—Paranoid in Placitas
Wow, you are cautious! Do you even leave the house? Anyway, you came to the right place because I have a tip for you. Get to a photocopier or scanner and copy both sides of everything in your wallet, including ATM cards, credit cards, driver license, insurance cards as well as your Social Security card—something you shouldn't be carrying in your wallet in the first place. Then, if your wallet does get lost or stolen, you'll have all of the account numbers and phone numbers to call and cancel them. Keep the photocopy in a very, very safe place. Pull it out as soon as your purse is snatched and start calling around. If you call right away, you probably won't be held liable if thieves rack up tons of charges on your card.
What's In Your Wallet?
Damn! Someone stole my wallet last night and they've already racked up $1,300 worth of charges at Wal-Mart. They also applied for another credit card using my information! What can I do now?
—Annoyed in Albuquerque
Whoa, that sucks. Sounds like you have some slippery thieves on your hands. File a police report as soon as possible. If the theft occurred in Albuquerque, call 768-2030 or 242-COPS (2677) on the off-chance someone will answer; otherwise, call directory assistance for the appropriate number in the jurisdiction in which the theft was perpetrated. The police probably can't/won't do anything about it, but filing the report can help your credit company prosecute the thieves (as they may).
The most important thing to do is to call the three national credit reporting organizations right away to place a fraud alert on your name and Social Security number. This alert means that a company that checks your credit knows that your information was stolen and must contact you to authorize new credit. This is the best way to stop the thief in their tracks.
Call Equifax at (800) 525-6285. They can put a fraud alert on your credit file so that if anyone tries to get credit using your identity, you'll be called first. Equifax will also pass on the alert to the other credit agencies, Experian (888) 397-3742 and Trans Union (800) 680-7289. You can also call the Social Security Administration at (800) 269-0271 to report fraud. Good luck.
Keys to the Kingdom
Someone stole the keys for my house and car. What do I do?
—Miffed in Midtown
It is always scary to think that someone has the means to steal even more stuff because they took your keys as well as your cash. It's like unlocking the door to fear and suspicion. So unless you are sure that the culprit can't possibly know where to find your house or car, it's best to change your locks for the peace of mind that jerk stole from you along with your stuff. According to Robert Wood from Locksmith (323-6100), a roving service in Albuquerque, it is much less expensive to change the locks on your house than on your car. Getting a new house key made from a copy will only set you back a couple bucks, and it will cost around $45 to pop open your house if you are locked out. Rekeying your residence runs around $9 per lock, but this is surprisingly cheap when you compare it to what it costs to safeguard your car. A duplicate car key for post-2000 models can run up to $50, and you can expect to shell out as much as $300 if you don't have a copy at home. Rekeying your car is something that can only be done by a dealer or mechanic, and this service can rocket up to $500 on newer cars with autolocks. So Miffed, I'm sorry, but it looks like that thief took your keys and your next month's salary with him. The moral is to always have a set of duplicate keys at home, and to make sure that your keychain doesn't contain any sign of your address, phone number or license plate number. That's just asking for trouble.