Considering the many data breaches of personal information, along with the legal sharing of it, ID theft is all too likely.
Bad guys might try to open a credit card in your name. To prevent this, freeze your credit with
Equifax. Do not pay for any upgrades.
Bad guys might use your credit card to buy themselves stuff. You can be alerted to this by having your credit card company notify you, in real time, about charges on
The US Federal Trade Commission runs identitytheft.gov where you can both report the identity theft and learn how to recover from it.
Americans should open an account with the IRS (irs.gov) to prevent bad guys from opening
an account in your name and getting your tax refund. Even if you never use this account, it is safer to have it. Brian Krebs: has more (January 2018).
The IRS also offers an Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN), a six-digit number that prevents a bad guy from filing a tax return using your Social Security number. The IP PIN helps the IRS verify your identity when you file your tax return.
Americans should also open an account with the Social Security Administration (ssa.gov) regardless of their age. This prevents bad guys with your stolen information from opening an account as you, and, for many people, is the only way to verify that their earnings are correctly reported.
When you logon to the My Social Security website, it reports the last time you logged on. If you can track this yourself, then you can be sure no one has stolen
your identity and logged on as you.
According to this article, the Social Security Administration has greatly curtailed the number of paper statements it mails. It now mails statements only to people over 60 who are not yet getting benefits and who have not set up digital accounts.
After an account is opened, you can block all electronic access to it. Of course, this blocking is only as good as the defenses against bad guys unblocking it and I don't know what those defenses are.
The phone number of the Social Security Administration is 800-772-1213
The Social Security Administration does not threaten to arrest people. Social Security numbers can not be suspended. These are common scams.
Neither the IRS nor Social Security does a good enough job of identifying people. They both know where you live, they could send a code via postal mail to verify who you are ... but, no. The Social Security Administration uses Equifax data to verify your identity and we all know that Equifax was hacked in 2017 and lost their crown jewels (our personal information). If you have a credit freeze with Equifax, then you can not open a Social Security account. You can't make this stuff up.
A free annual credit report, available at annualcreditreport.com can't hurt. However, two things about the site are a sham. For one, it says that
you can order reports online. When I last tried this in December 2018, it was not true, reports had to be ordered via postal mail, and, I was not told this until
after I entered all my personal information. Also, the site has not opted for extra identity validation for itself (see topic on VERIFIED WEBSITE IDENTITY).
Requests on paper are the way to go.
Credit Monitoring Services (CMS), such as Experian Idworks, are of iffy value. Far better to freeze your credit with as many credit reporting agencies as you can find (there are 3 big ones and at least 3 small ones). Someone told me they were being monitored by three Credit Monitoring Services when they opened a new credit card, and it took over a month, until the CMS companies notified him about the new card.
The Identity Theft Resource Center (idtheftcenter.org or (888) 400-5530) offers free assistance for ID theft. They may be well-meaning, but their computer advice, is ancient and lame.
FYI: My identity theft nightmare could be your nightmare too by Jessica Roy (October 2022). Her story started with a stolen wallet. The bad guys could not get into her Gmail account because of two-factor authentication. So, they made a new Gmail account with her name. Her driver’s license had been reported stolen, yet Bank of America and Wells Fargo both issued checkbooks to accounts opened using it. The reporter/victim suggests reviewing your credit reports at least once a year.
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