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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Safeguard against ID Theft

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America and several celebrities and commoners alike are become victims everyday. Most of the time, all a criminal needs to steal your identity is your name and SSN.


Even at the outset, let us understand what identity theft means. Identity theft is similar to credit card or bank account fraud and the ultimate aim is a plan to steal your money. Criminals who find out your Social Security number (SSN) and/or account numbers can straightaway apply for new credit cards or replacements for the old ones, bounce your checks, or apply for store credit.

Identity theft can often be for crimes more than simple financial fraud. More imaginative criminals might go to the extent of opening a new cellular phone service account in your name, avail a car loan, or misuse your Social Security number to apply for jobs or bankruptcy, subjecting you to needless hassles with the IRS. With a little cleverness and some resources, an identity thief can make life miserable for you.

Social Security numbers are extremely critical to identity thieves as they use them to assume a person's identity and commit fraud. Security experts opine SSN is a key ingredient in identity theft. However, we see many people indiscriminately enter their SSN on business or retail forms without even pausing for a moment.


According to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, when SSNs were first issued in 1936, the federal government had clearly stated that the numbers would be used strictly for Social Security programs only. The use of these cards for personal identification and work authorization is more of recent origin. Today, the SSN has become the most frequently used recordkeeping number in the United States. It is used for employee files, medical records, health insurance accounts, credit and banking accounts, student identification cards, and for lot more purposes.

With the SSN becoming more or less freely accessible, it is now easy for criminals to fraudulently use your SSN to gain access to your financial accounts, government records, and other sources of personal information.

An identity thief who knows your SSN and name can enjoy immense benefits like opening new lines of credit, buying expensive goods, applying for jobs in your name, and steal large quantities of cash from your bank accounts even before you realize it.

All you can do is to follow a few simple guidelines to protect your number and minimize your risk of becoming a victim. The common practice of identity thieves is to pose as bank representatives, service providers and government agents to trick victims into revealing their numbers. Under no circumstances should you reveal your personal information over the phone, by mail, or online. You should make absolutely sure the identity of the person seeking this information and you must be able to trust the people who are asking for it.

Many people are under the mistaken impression that they must immediately reveal their SSN when a government agency or private business asks for it. This is simply untrue. A very few government agencies, such as motor vehicle departments, tax departments and welfare departments, can legally demand to know your SSN. Your SSN is also required for transactions involving taxes, so banks, brokerages and employers may have a legitimate need to know your SSN. Other than these bodies, most business houses and retailers have no legal right to demand your number.

Adding "Credit Freeze" or "Fraud Alert" on your credit report at the three major credit bureaus will go a long way in protecting an identity thief from using your SSN. This completely locks your credit and prevents lenders from offering new credit in your name unless they verify your identity via phone or e-mail. If you are proactive and take suitable precautionary measures for protecting your SSN, it will be unlikely that you will have to experience the trauma of identity theft.

posted by All America Auto Transport @ 12:05 AM permanent link  

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