Identity theft happens every day, and it is when we least expect it that we are actually vulnerable. Unbeknownst to us, our Social Security Number (SSN) may already be floating around on the internet. It’s a good idea to check and see if this is the case. Google search your SSN and see if anything comes up. If it does, you need to take precautions to protect yourself. Go to http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/idtheft/idt07.shtm and take action!
There are different ways that your SSN can be obtained. Employers, for a fee, can access internet sites that provide this information. Someone who is not your employer could also obtain this for a fee. They must register with the site and agree to adhere to the company’s terms and conditions. For example, this is on PeoplePublicRecords.org’s website:
“You agree that you shall not use the Services in any manner that violates any applicable law, regulation, or term of this Agreement.”
There is also a section that tells you how to remove your information:
“Please be aware that public records can be obtained from official public records custodians or repositories and are made available upon request to the general public. In order to request a copy or removal of your official public record, please contact the official custodians of the public record you wish to be removed/withheld from public access. The process by which you may request for your official public record/s to be removed varies by state, so please check with your local government public record repository/ies for further details.”
Clauses like these are there for consumer protection but don’t always work and certainly not if this information gets into the wrong hands.
The best way to protect yourself is to safeguard your information, to the best of your ability. Keeping your Social Security/Medicare cards at home is one way. Shred documents with your personal information. Avoid giving this out over the phone, unless you know exactly who you are talking to, how to reach them, etc. Certainly, do not type it on a form on an unsecured website or give to an untrustworthy business. Check out the company in advance by going to BBB.org. Even then, it’s still safer to not submit your personal information online. Guard your SSN as if it was your life because it is! When you are asked for your SSN, ask why they need it — don’t just willingly hand it over!