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Hijacking your Social Security number
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According to the Consumers Union, it takes consumers an average of 300 to 500 hours to fix their credit. So, consumers should take steps to safeguard their private information. Here are some recommendations from the Social Security Administration:

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  • Keep your Social Security card at home. Don't carry it with you unless absolutely necessary.
  • Don't carry your passport, birth certificate or other valuable personal documents unless absolutely necessary.
  • Keep your personal and financial documents, including the ones mentioned above, in a safe place. You might use a fireproof box at home or a safety-deposit box at your bank.
  • Make sure your Social Security number isn't used as your employee or student identification number and that it isn't printed on any other identification, such as your driver's license.
  • Don't put your Social Security number on your checks.
  • Avoid using your Social Security number, date of birth or other identifying numbers as your passwords online.
  • Don't give out your number to people or companies you don't know. Before you give out your personal information, ask why it is needed and how it will be used.
  • Experts also suggest you take the following steps to lessen your chances of becoming a victim:

    • Cancel any credit cards you don't use.
    • Don't share your SSN when it isn't necessary. (For purchases and business transactions other than banking, trading stock or buying property, it isn't necessary.)
    • Remove your name from mailing lists. By calling (888) 5OPT-OUT, you can get your name off the marketing lists of the three primary credit bureaus. (This will, in turn, decrease the number of pre-approved credit offers you receive.)
    • Request a copy of your Social Security Personal Earnings and Benefit Estimate Statement at least every three years to make sure the information in your file is correct. (You can do this online through the SSA Web site.)
    • Be aware of what's on your credit report. Pull your credit report once or twice a year to be sure it's correct. You can get one report from each of the three major credit bureaus eacy year for free.
    • If your bank uses your SSN as a personal identification number, or PIN, or as the identifier for banking by phone, write or call to request a different number. If you use the last four digits of your Social Security number as your PIN for your ATM, automated teller machine, change it to something less predicable (not your birth date!).
    • If your state's department of motor vehicles uses SSNs as driver's license numbers, ask for an alternate number. Most will cooperate.
    Bankrate.com's corrections policy
    --Posted: Dec. 27, 2005
     
     
    More stories by Kristin Arnold
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     RESOURCES
    Guard your Social Security number
    Americans' top complaint: Identity theft
    The growing problem of ID theft
     TOP PERSONAL FINANCE STORIES
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