When the first of April comes, you need to be on guard to protect yourself from an April Fool’s Day prank. But every day of the year, you should be wary of identity thieves. Identity theft is no joking matter. Identity thieves victimize millions of people each year.
Identity thieves have some sly tricks to obtain your personal information. They do it by:
• stealing wallets, purses and your mail;
• posing by phone or email as someone who legitimately needs information about you, such as employers or landlords;
• stealing personal information you provide to an unsecured site on the Internet, from business or personnel records at work, and personal information in your home; or
• rummaging through your trash, the trash of businesses and public trash dumps for personal data.
Don’t be fooled by identity thieves; take the proper precautions. Be sure to safeguard your personal information, such as your Social Security number and mother’s maiden name. If an identity thief gets this information, it could result in more than monetary loss for you as a victim-it also can hurt your credit score and record.
You can help protect yourself by not carrying your Social Security card with you and not providing your personal information to unknown sources over the Internet or by phone. Be sure to shred any documents, bills or paperwork before you throw them away. Most important, never reply to an email claiming to be from Social Security that asks you for your Social Security number or other personal information. If you are contacted by someone claiming to be from Social Security and you have doubts about the validity of the caller, you can call us at (800) 772-1213, (TTY 1-800-325-0778).
If you think you’ve been the victim of identity theft, you should contact the Federal Trade Commission at (877) IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338); TTY (866) 653-4261; or go to idtheft.gov and click on the link for “Report Identity Theft.” Learn more about identity theft at socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10064.html.
Please don’t let an identity thief make an April fool out of you.
Ken Hess is the public affairs specialist for northern Wisconsin. Contact Ken at 2023 Navajo St., Rhinelander, WI 54501 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.