How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Who knows my social security number?

Identity theft is more common than you may think. Sometimes the criminal is someone you know. It could be a family member, co-worker, or friend. But other times, it’s someone you’ve never met.

Before a criminal takes the opportunity to impersonate you and use your information, take steps to protect your identity. Extensive damage to your finances occurs when new accounts are opened without your knowledge, or when existing accounts are used without your permission.

Be cautious with your personal information. Account numbers, statements, and passwords must be kept in a safe place and documents should be shredded after use.

Who can I share personal information with?

Certain entities, such as financial institutions, employers, the Internal Revenue Service, government programs (i.e. workers compensation and welfare), medical providers, and insurance companies, require your Social Security Number (SSN). They often access information on credit reports to determine an applicant’s credit worthiness before approving a loan, a job or promotion, a new insurance policy, or medical coverage.

Do I have to provide personal information on request?

Consumers have the right to inquire why certain information is requested on applications and forms. When there are blank spaces to fill out such as name, address, phone number, date of birth, and social security number, ask how the information will be used, where it will be stored, and if its location is secure, how long the information will be kept on file, who will have access to it, and when the information will be deleted.

When filling out an application or form, always ask why your SSN is required. You may be able to provide another form of identification, such as a driver’s license, a passport, or birth certificate instead.

Legitimate businesses have privacy policies that explain why they collect personal information and the affiliates they share it with. Request a copy of this policy and review it for their list of affiliates. Ask how your information will be used, who will have access to it, how long it will be kept, and when the information will be removed from the file.

Can I get a new social security number?

It’s not easy to get a new social security number. You can submit an application for a new SSN with the Social Security Administration under certain circumstances, for example:

  • Identity theft victims that continue to be disadvantaged by use his or her original number
  • A social security number assigned to more than one person.
  • Sequential numbers assigned to family members causing merged credit files.

When a new SSN is assigned, the new number is cross-referenced with the original number so that the person receives credit for all earnings under both numbers.

To request a new SSN, contact a Social Security office near you. You will need to complete an application, show documents that establish U.S. citizenship, age, identity, and evidence of any legal name change, if appropriate. The application must explain the reasons for needing a new number and provide credible evidence and documents that detail the reasons for needing a new number.

Get Legal Help

Flitter Milz is a consumer protection law firm that represents people with issues that stem from identity theft such as credit reporting problems and contact from debt collectors.  Contact us today to discuss how the consumer laws may help you.