New Year, New You? Protect Your Identity

January 6, 2014

If you’re facing a big life event in the New Year, you may want to take extra care with your personal information to protect your identity.

Getting married or divorced and thinking of changing your name? The first step to doing that is applying for a new Social Security card with your new name. You'll still have the same number.

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Expecting a new baby? One of the first official pieces of mail you will receive following the birth will be your son or daughter's Social Security card. 

A child's Social Security number can be used by identity thieves to apply for government benefits, open bank and credit card accounts, apply for a loan or utility service, or rent a place to live, warns the Federal Trade Commission. Once rare, child identity theft is now on the rise.

It's a good idea to check for a credit report to see if your child’s information is being misused. Take immediate action if it is. Victims of this often don't discover someone has assumed their identities until it's too late.

Protect your Social Security number and those of your children. Release them only when absolutely necessary (like tax forms, employment records, most banking, stock and property transactions), advises the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. The SSN is the key to your credit and banking accounts and is the prime target of criminals.

So where should you store you and your family's Social Security cards and other important personal documents such as marriage and death certificates and mortgage paperwork? Consider buying a fireproof/waterproof safe, a desk with lockable drawers or a lockable file cabinet. Lockboxes and small safes start at prices of $20-$100. You can also spend as much as several hundred dollars for larger safes, desks and cabinets, if necessary, to keep your information secure from roommates or workers who come into your home.

Whatever life event may be happening this year or next, even if it involves you changing your name, you are still the same person. So it's a good idea to be proactive in protecting your identity.

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