Protecting Your Social Security Number

Deter - Detect - Defend

According to the Social Security Administration, identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America. Once a dishonest person has your social security number they can use it to get personal information about you, apply for credit in your name, or cause you any number of other problems.

Identify thieves often get your personal information by:
  • Stealing wallets, purses and your mail (bank and credit card statements, pre-approved credit offers, new checks, tax information)
  • Stealing personal information you provide to an unsecured website, from business or personnel records at work and personal information at home.
  • Rummaging through your trash, the trash of businesses and public trash receptacles
  • Posing as someone who needs information about you
  • Buying personal information from inside sources

So, what is the best way to protect yourself?

DETER identity thieves by safeguarding your information. Keep your card, and any other document that shows your Social Security number on it, in a safe place. If you need to present your card for any reason be sure to return it to a safe place - don't get in the habit of routinely carrying it. Be cautious about sharing your Social Security number...ask why it is needed, how it will be used, and what will happen if you refuse.

DETECT suspicious activity by routinely monitoring your financial accounts and billing statements.

DEFEND against ID theft as soon as you suspect a problem. If someone has misused your Social Security number or other personal information to create credit or other problems for you, there are several things you should do:
  • PLACE a fraud alert on your credit reports. Fraud alerts can help prevent an identity thief from opening any more accounts in your name. Contact the toll-free fraud number of any of the following three consumer reporting companies to place a fraud alert on your credit report:
TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289;
Equifax: 1-800-525-6285;
Experian: 1-888-397-3742;
  • CLOSE the accounts that you know have been opened fraudulently, or tampered with.
  • CONTACT the Internal Revenue Service Identity Protection Unit. An identity thief might use your Social Security number to file a tax return in order to receive a refund, or use it to get a job.
  • FILE an FTC ID Theft Complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You can find detailed information here to help you deter, detect and defend against identity theft.
  • FILE a police report with your local police, or the police in the community where the identity theft took place. The FTC Complaint can be incorporated into the police record for maximum protection.
  • FILE an online complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) which offers an easy to use reporting mechanism to alert authorities of suspected violations.

Filing a police report, checking your credit reports, notifying creditors, and disputing any unauthorized transactions are some of the steps you must take immediately to restore your good name. To learn more about these steps and more, visit the DEFEND: Recover from Identity Theft section. To file a complaint, click here.


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