Never carry your social security card -- or any documents or I.D. cards with your social security number on them -- with you. We can't repeat that enough. That also goes for your birth certificate and passport. Keep these documents at home, and keep copies of them in case they do go missing or are mishandled. A stolen social security number (SSN) can be used to wreak havoc in all sorts of ways, including allowing access to bank accounts, credit accounts, loans, driving records, medical records, employment information and tax information. And that's really just a list of the biggies. The thief also gains the ability to open new fraudulent accounts.
There are more never-dos when it comes to your SSN. Never give out your SSN over the phone or send it through an electronic form on an unprotected computer. And never use your SSN for identification; for example, never write it on your checks (and don't have it printed on them when you order new checks). Avoid using it as an identifier on such things as your driver's license and medical files -- request to use an alternate number.
Author's Note: 10 Tips for Avoiding Identity Theft
Target hardening. While that seems like an extreme way to describe it, that's really what this is all about -- reducing your identity fraud risk by making it more difficult to steal your personal information compared to someone else. For example, if it's harder to steal your mail than your neighbor's mail because you use a locking mailbox and they use an unsecured box on a post, whose mail do you think will be the target? Probably not the one with the lock.
Oh, and if I didn't mention it enough already, protect your SSN -- those 9 digits are the golden ticket to pretty much everything about you.
More Great Links
- Annis, Jill. "Together: Shredding documents can help protect against identity theft and clutter." Wisconsin State Journal. Sept. 5, 2014. (Sept. 20, 2014) http://host.madison.com/lifestyles/home_and_garden/together-shredding-documents-can-help-protect-against-identity-theft-and/article_c668cf05-0f89-583f-b71e-e8b8cce111b2.html
- Berry, Nick. "Data Decoded, Value Unlocked." DataGenetics. July 23, 2013. (Sept. 20, 2014) http://www.datagenetics.com/index.html
- Brownell, Matt. "8 things you should shred right now." MSN Money. Nov. 2, 2011. (Sept. 20, 2014) http://money.msn.com/identity-theft/8-things-you-should-shred-right-now
- Coursey, David. "25 'Worst Passwords' of 2011 Revealed." Forbes. Nov. 21, 2011. (Sept. 20, 2014) http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidcoursey/2011/11/21/25-worst-passwords-of-2011-revealed/
- Dockterman, Eliana. "Your Identity Is Worth $5 on the Black Market." Time. Aug. 26, 2013. (Sept. 20, 2014) http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/08/26/your-identity-is-worth-5-on-the-black-market/
- Equifax. "Preventing Identity Theft." (Sept. 20, 2014) http://learn.equifax.com/identity-theft/preventing-identity-theft
- Federal Bureau of Investigation. "Identity Theft." (Sept. 20, 2014) http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/cyber/identity_theft/identity-theft-overview
- Federal Trade Commission. "Consumer Information - Free Credit Reports." March 2013. (Sept. 20, 2014) http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0155-free-credit-reports
- Federal Trade Commission. "Consumer Information - Privacy & Identity." (Sept. 20, 2014) http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/topics/privacy-identity
- Griffith, Eric. "Password Protection: How to Create Strong Passwords." PCMag. Nov. 29, 2011. (Sept. 20, 2014) http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2368484,00.asp
- Identity Theft Resource Center. "Identity Theft Protection Tips." (Sept. 20, 2014) http://www.idtheftcenter.org/Protect-yourself/id-theft-prevention-tips.html
- Identity Theft Victims Assistance Network. "My Identity Was Used To Receive Medical Benefits." (Sept. 20, 2014) http://identitytheftnetwork.org/gethelp/my-identity-was-used-to-receive-medical-benefits
- Javelin Strategy & Research. "More Than 12 Million Identity Fraud Victims in 2012 According to Latest Strategy & Research Report." Feb. 20, 2013. (Sept. 20, 2014) https://www.javelinstrategy.com/news/1387/92/More-Than-12-Million-Identity-Fraud-Victims-in-2012-According-to-Latest-Javelin-Strategy-Research-Report/d,pressRoomDetail
- Lanza, Jeff. "Protecting Your Identity." Federal Bureau of Investigation. Aug. 21, 2006. (Sept. 20, 2014) http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2006/august/idtheft_082106
- McCarthy, Cathleen. "How to Spot and Prevent Medical Identity Theft." Fox Business. Aug. 13, 2014. (Sept. 20, 2014) http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2014/08/13/how-to-spot-and-prevent-medical-identity-theft/
- National Consumers League - Fraud.org. "Internet Fraud: Phishing." 2013. (Sept. 20, 2014) http://www.fraud.org/scams/internet-fraud/phishing
- Navy Federal Credit Union. "Phishing & E-mail Scams." (Sept. 20, 2014) https://www.navyfederal.org/life-money/managing-your-money/phishing-email-scams.php
- Ponemon Institute. "2013 Survey on Medical Identity Theft." Sept. 11, 2013. (Sept. 20, 2014) http://www.ponemon.org/blog/2013-survey-on-medical-identity-theft
- Tolar, Tisha. "5 things never to keep in your wallet." MSN Money. Oct. 24, 2012. (Sept. 20, 2014) http://money.msn.com/saving-money-tips/post.aspx?post=13d8f202-3460-46ec-805e-9bf232fe062f
- TransUnion. "How to Prevent Identity Theft." (Sept. 20, 2014) http://www.transunion.com/personal-credit/identity-theft-and-fraud/how-to-prevent-identity-theft.page
- U.S. Department of Justice. "Identity Theft and Indentity Fraud." (Sept. 20, 2014) http://www.justice.gov/criminal/fraud/websites/idtheft.html
- U.S. Social Security Administration -- Philadelphia Region. "Avoid Identity Theft: Protect Social Security Numbers." (Sept. 20, 2014) http://www.ssa.gov/phila/ProtectingSSNs.htm
- Weisman, Steve. "There is an epidemic of medical identity theft." USA Today. Sept. 13, 2014. (Sept. 20, 2014) http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2014/09/13/identity-theft-hacking-medical/15345643/
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