The primary reason the Social Security Administration exists is to track and pay over 66 million Americans who are eligible for its benefits. It has, however, taken it upon itself to help prevent identity theft. Perhaps this is because so many Social Security recipients are the targets of scams. (Click here for the big cities with the worst identity theft problem.)
The administration’s 10 Ways to Protect Your Personal Information report includes the following advice:
- Do not show people your Social Security Card. Keep it safe at home.
- Do not speak to unknown callers. It must be that Americans do this regularly.
- Create strong passwords. The most common password is “password,” which is a bad idea.
- Do not post personal information on social media. How many people put Social Security numbers on Facebook pages? Presumably, given this warning, more than one.
- Shred paper documents when they contain personal information. However, not all Americans can afford a shredder.
- Use a PIN, password, fingerprint or face identification system to protect cell phones.
- Check financial accounts from time to time and look for odd transactions. Apparently, TransUnion, Equifax and Experian give out free reports a year, which seems less frequent than is useful.
- Use antivirus software on electronic devices. Do not conduct e-commerce transactions on public Wi-Fi systems.
- Delete personal accounts that are no longer in use.
- Never click on links in unsolicited emails.
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These suggestions are without question valuable, but almost every personal finance website puts out the same list once a year. Maybe if it comes from the Social Security Administration, people will pay more attention.
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