The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

Senior scene

July 9, 2011

Social Security: Protect your Social Security number to help prevent ID theft

As the new manager of the Oneonta Social Security office, I have to admit, I have been extremely busy. So busy, in fact, that I have found it difficult to come up with a topic for this month's column. So I decided to go back and read some of a certain former manager's articles for inspiration, and came across a persistent problem-identity theft. I decided to share his words of wisdom on how to avoid having your identity compromised.

Here are some things you should do:

"¢ You should treat your Social Security number as confidential information and avoid giving it out unnecessarily. Keep your Social Security card in a safe place with your other important personal papers. Do not carry it with you unless you need to show it to an employer or service provider. The fewer people with access to your number, the safer you are.

Don't just throw away paperwork that includes your name, Social Security number or other personal information on it _ shred it. When you get junk mail, shred it before you toss it. If you don't have a shredder, try ripping your paperwork several times and placing half of each document in different trash bags. If you fail to shred it, it could become free credit for someone else.

"¢ You should monitor your credit records. Each of the major credit reporting services are now required by law to provide you with a free credit report each year upon request. This is a convenient way to see if anyone other than yourself or other authorized persons are using your credit. You can contact Equifax, Experian, and Transunion and ask for your free reports. Just go to the website set up by the three credit agencies, www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/index.jsp, to request a free credit report.

"¢ You should also know that Social Security is working hard to protect your number from misuse. For example, we require and carefully inspect proof of identity from people who apply to replace lost or stolen Social Security cards, or who request corrected cards. We also maintain the privacy of Social Security records. Unless a law requires us to disclose information to another government agency or if your information is needed to conduct Social Security or other government health or welfare program business, we will not disclose your information to anyone but you.

For more information on identity theft and safeguarding your Social Security number, visit our website at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10064.html or you can call us at (800) 772-1213 (TTY 800-325-0778) and ask for the leaflet titled "Identity Theft And Your Social Security Number." You can always contact us locally with any questions at (877) 628-6581.

"¢ Another important thing to be aware of is this-you should never be required to pay for an original or replacement Social Security card. I was recently made aware of a website that offers to "prepare" your Social Security Card application for a fee. Social Security employees are trained to help complete these forms quickly, efficiently and at no charge to the applicant. If you want to learn more about what is needed to apply for a new Social Security card, simply visit our website at www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber.

There you have it, a few great reminders and something new to consider. I hope you will take this advice seriously. It could save you money, time and future aggravation.

Tracey L. Weaver is district manager of the Oneonta office of the Social Security Administration.

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