Keep Identity Thieves at Bay: Protect Your Social Security Number and Accounts Where You Spend MoneyJan. 19, 2023
Identity theft, a concept that wouldnt even have made sense thirty years ago, is now one of the most pernicious and damaging offenses were at risk for every day, and because its substantially perpetrated over the Internet, the threats come from every corner of the globe. By focusing on key areas of vulnerability and taking steps to minimize your risk, you can increase your chances to avoid the hassle of recovering from identity theft. Keep the following in mind as you register for websites, pay your bills, shop online, and do business over the phone:
- Social Security Number. Guard your Social Security number with vigilance. Because banks, insurers, and the IRS use it to identify you, its the number everyone wants to have. It unlocks money, information, and trust.
- Special Accounts. Guard every website that has your Social Security number or where you spend money. Its important to protect information about your bank, brokerage, and retirement accounts, but those arent the only ones. Think about all the websites where you spend money: eBay, Amazon, newspapers,Paypal, and even your electric and gas accounts. Any account that can cause your money to move or which holds your Social Security number deserves special status.
- Special account passwords. Any password you use for a websites of general interest should never be used for one of the special accounts.
- One person per password. Dont share passwords with other people, because doing so exposes you to everyone elses risk.
- Inappropriate questioning. We teach our children to trust their instincts about strangers; the same principle applies to adults online. A newspaper has no business knowing your Social Security number, and any website asking for a credit card just to confirm that youre an actual person probably confirms that it isnt acting in good faith.
Identity thieves are real criminals, but dont get swept up over who they are or why they do it. A thief could be an 11-year-old delinquent trying to prove himself to his friends, or a rogue business in Uzbekistan who wants $1 from 2 million people to fund a terrorist attack. It doesnt matter. Focus instead on your areas of vulnerability: money-impacting online accounts, secure passwords, and your Social Security number. With any luck, keeping those factors in mind will let the thieves take care of themselves. If you believe you have been the victim of identity theft, contact an attorney immediately so that you can take the appropriate and legal steps to minimize the damage and repair your good name.