Protecting your information from identity thieves is more important than ever. Of course, with the prevalence of email phishing, Facebook hacks and other cyber security threats, it’s easy to forget that some crooks still acquire our private information the old-fashioned way.
Identity thieves may go dumpster-diving, break in and steal personal files, or trick us with phone scams. Unfortunately, when you’re the victim of identity theft, it isn’t always easy to track down the original security breach that exposed your personal info.
That’s why it’s important to be very careful about when and where you give out your information, especially your Social Security number. Think of your SSN as the “master key” to your identity. If if should fall into the wrong hands, you can wind up experiencing some serious headaches in the form of tax fraud, identity theft, and other crimes.
Here are 5 scenarios when you should never give your Social Security number:
1. Calls (or Emails) From “Official” Organizations
If you’re contacted by an official organization via phone or email, make sure you follow through and double-check that everything is legitimate before you actually give out any personal information.
Visit the organization’s website, or call their customer service line. Speak to an actual human so that you can verify how your information will be used and how it’ll be protected. Look them up on Scambook. Impersonating an official group, or even the government, is a common scam tactic.
2. Public Schools
Public schools may ask for your SSN as a way to confirm your identity. There are other ways that you can verify your guardianship, however. For example, offer to bring a utility bill or a copy of your driver’s license.
While it’s unlikely that your child’s school secretary is an identity thief, you’ll reduce your risk for identity theft by ensuring that your SSN isn’t in the database if the school is ever targeted by hackers.
3. Summer Camps, Little Leagues, etc.
These organizations may also ask for your SSN, for the same reasons as your local public school, but your community center really doesn’t need your Social Security number to let you or your family participate in activities.
Again, offer to bring a utility bill, a copy of your driver’s license, or another recent document that can verify your address instead.
Think about it: why does a supermarket or a retail chain need your Social Security number?
You can easily refuse to give out this information, however, to make sure that it’s not sold to a third party or misused in some other way.
5. People on the Street
This one might seem like a no-brainer, but you might be surprised how many times people on the street can persuade individuals to give out personal information.
This mostly applies to public participation activities like surveys and promotional contests. Whatever the case, avoid giving out your Social Security Number on the street. The chance to share your opinion or win a prize isn’t worth the potential cost of identity theft.
Protect Your Identity!
When you do have to give out your Social Security Number (and there will certainly be times when it’s necessary), you should always make sure that the organization receiving your information will be protecting it properly.
Ask about the security measures they use to protect your privacy and always ask for specifics about how your information is going to be used.
Do you have any great tips for protecting your identity? Share with us in the comments!
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