This week at the Independence Rotary Club, Bing Chen reminded the audience that safeguarding our personal identity information is important to our financial health. Chen is a value added sales manager at American Century Investments, one of our hometown mutual fund success stories.

This week at the Independence Rotary Club, Bing Chen reminded the audience that safeguarding our personal identity information is important to our financial health. Chen is a value added sales manager at American Century Investments, one of our hometown mutual fund success stories.

This topic is currently top-of-my-mind since someone misused my credit card information just after a recent business trip. As our trusty accountant reviewed the card statement, we discovered I had been charged a small amount as a test and then a few thousand dollars for three different South American airline tickets. I still had my card, but at some point of sale, a person had kept the number and code on the back.

This feeling of having been violated in my financial life reminds me of the way I feel about my part of the national debt of more than $15 trillion. It is growing like a cancer, by stealth and by the failure of 535 people robbing me and my descendants of our future health and welfare. But I digress. Another column for another day.

Chen said points of attack include our personal, financial and medical information. One great suggestion is for those of you with Medicare cards. Only carry a copy of your official card that has your Social Security number blocked out. You can give your Social Security number verbally to the health-care provider.

Never carry your actual Social Security card with you. In fact, clean out your purse or wallet and carry only those financial or medical cards that you use frequently. Make certain you sign the back of any card as soon as you receive it. If it would make you feel better, also write “require photo ID” next to your signature but don’t count on that happening.

Even in your own home, think about the possibility of being burglarized. Don’t leave financial statements or bills lying around or in easy-to-find places. Use a safety deposit box or home safe for permanent records.

When you use a computer, make your identifications and passwords difficult for anyone else to guess. Your mother’s maiden name is probably easy to find by almost anyone. Do not perform any online transactions using unsecured Wi-Fi connections, even at home.

This was probably the most unusual piece of advice to me. When you write checks, only use a UniBall 207 gel pen. The characteristics of this particular ink make it much more difficult to wash your writing off to change the payee, the amount or both.

By now, I am afraid to use my cell phone, laptop or even an unattached solar-powered calculator! Seriously, we can and should take all reasonable precautions in the world, but evildoers still will find a way to cheat and steal. If you would like to see a copy of the protection checklist American Century provides, go to our Rotary Club’s website, www.rotary-independence-mo.org. Just don’t steal any of our charitable donation money while you’re in there, please.