Hints from Heloise

Dear Readers: Reporting online identity theft is as easy as 1, 2, 3. Here are the steps according to the Federal Trade Commission's program www.IdentityTheft.gov:


1. (A) Call the companies where you know the fraud occurred and ask for their fraud department. They can freeze your account to prevent new charges. (B) Replace your passwords, login IDs and personal identification numbers for these accounts.


2. Place a fraud alert and get your credit reports. To place a fraud alert, contact one of the three major credit bureaus. That company must report the fraud alert to the other two. Here are the three major credit bureaus and how to contact them:


- Experian.com/fraudalert, 1-888-397-3742


- TransUnion.com/fraud, 1-800-680-7289


- Equifax.com/CreditReportAssistance, 1-888-766-0008


Ask for a free copy of your credit report at www.AnnualCreditReport.com or call 1-877-322-8228, and review it for transactions you don't recognize.


3. Visit www.IdentityTheft.gov, and report the fraud to the FTC with as many details as you can remember. They will create a plan of action for you. - Heloise


TECH TUESDAY


Dear Readers: Many people might think that the safest computer password is a random jumble of letters, numbers and characters, such as: sPwk5$lc*U, for example. Wrong.


This method, besides being impossible to remember, is not the most secure. It's far better, experts agree, to string real words together: HippoHopRecliner, for example.


Does the site demand a number or character as part of the password? No problem. Exclamation points can sub for i's, and the number 3 for an E. Get creative, but make sure you can remember your password. - Heloise


CLEAN CALLER


Dear Readers: We are all more conscious of germs and bacteria these days. And, yes, we wash our hands thoroughly and frequently, but how often do we clean our phones?


To be safe, be sure to wipe down your phone with a damp, not dripping, disinfecting wipe once per day. - Heloise


A STAPLE GENIUS


Dear Heloise: I never knew this. On a standard stapler, there is a metal plate on the bottom of the stapler, called the anvil. This plate is moveable. When rotated 180 degrees, the resulting staple is looser and more easily removed. The "legs" of the completed staple will point outward instead of inward. - Howard in New York


Howard, isn't that interesting? If you need a temporary hold, readers, flip that anvil! - Heloise


A TIP?


Dear Heloise: Please settle a disagreement my husband and I are having. When we eat out, he likes to tip the server in Canadian or Mexican paper money and coins. I say no way. He says the foreign currency is cool. What do you think? - Mary in Oregon


Mary, I agree with you. Our servers work so hard and their base pay is often low. Tip generously in American currency.


If he wants to leave one foreign coin as a point of interest, that's OK, but people in the service industry rely on tips to make ends meet. - Heloise


Send a money-saving or time saving hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001, or you can fax it to 1-210-HELOISE or email it to Heloise@Heloise.com. I can't answer your letter personally but will use the best hints received in my column.


Distributed by King Features Syndicate Inc.