By ‘Above Average’ Joe
Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America, and gets more sophisticated by the day.
Just take a look at this case from New Jersey, where a Bulgarian national operating within the largest identity theft ring of its time is finally facing indictment.
Identity Theft Facts
Identity theft is reported by 7% of all American homes, and has already cost $21 billion in total financial loss in 2013 alone.
According to recent data from StatisticBrain.com, you’re most likely to be a victim of identity theft if you earn more than $75,000 a year, and if you live in Arizona, California, or Florida.
So many of us have become accustomed to rattling off our private numbers and identifiers without thinking twice.
Your identity is your biggest asset, and your Social Security number is the key to your master key to everything “you.”
With it an identity thief can wreak havoc on your life; hijacking your credit accounts, creating new ones, buying cars and houses, in your name, only to slink back into the shadows and leave you pick up the pieces.
And don’t think that the best way to avoid getting your identity stolen is by destroying your credit on your own… that’s just not the case
So how do you protect your identity?
Social Security Fraud Prevention Tips
The best thing you can do just say no!
For better or worse, you are the person most responsible for shielding your Social Security Number. Therefore, your mission is to limit the amount of people who have access to it.
Here’s a short list of companies and organizations that have absolutely no business requesting your Social Security number:
1. Anyone who calls or sends you an official-looking email, who texts you a link to any site or designates a number to call where you are asked to confirm your SSN. If they call, check the credit or debit card that is the subject of the communication, call the customer service number listed on the back, and ask for the security department.
If they email or text, do the same, or go directly to the institution’s website (provided you know who they are).
Make sure you type the correct URL, and make sure that the page where you are asked to enter your information is secure.
Only provide personal information if you’re the one who controls the interaction. I got one just last week.
It looked pretty legitimate until I noticed that the “from” email address is a hotmail.com address and not from my bank.
2. Public schools: Your utility bills confirm your address; your email and phone number give them channels to contact you in an emergency. Asking for your Social Security number is a bit overkill.
3. Little League, summer camp and other extra curricular activities: For the same reasons as school, a Social Security number should never be required by these groups. If they ask for your child’s birth certificate, show it to them, don’t leave it with them unless they can prove they will protect it. And even then, can you really believe them?
If you use credit to pay for the activity, the organization may need your Social Security number but If you pay for it upfront or with a direct debit to your bank account or credit card, they don’t. Period.
4. Supermarkets: A frequent shopper card is neither a loan, nor a bank account. It’s merely a tool grocery stores use to track your purchases, primarily for marketing purposes.
Regardless, many supermarket chains request customers’ Social Security numbers on their application forms.
Refuse and leave it blank if they ask for it.
5. Anybody who approaches you on the street, It sounds dumb and like simple common sense, but so many people do this every day… Whether it’s a cell phone company salesman offering a free T-shirt or someone running a voter registration campaign: Never, ever give your SSN. If you want a T-Shirt buy one. If you want to register to vote, go to your county board of elections in person. never from a person on the street!
There are plenty of other organizations that should never get your Social Security number, and if you know one that I’ve left out, please let me know in comments below.
P.S. This quick reference chart from www.creditcards.com should give you an idea of who can require your Social Security number, but if all else fails ask questions.
|WHO CAN, CAN’T REQUIRE YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER|
|Credit applications||Doctor and dentist intake forms|
|Cash transactions over $10,000||Supermarkets|
|When applying for certain federal benefits||Drugstores|
|The Department of Motor Vehicles||Airlines|
Parts of the information in this post were pulled from an article written by Adam Levine on Credit.com.