By Tony Stutts
Social Security District Manager in Petersburg
Identity theft affects millions of people each year and can cause serious harm. Protect oneself by securing personal information, understanding the threat of identity theft, and exercising caution.
Here are 10 things a person can start doing now to protect one and others from identity theft:
- Protect your Social Security number by keeping a Social Security card in a safe place at home. Don’t carry it with one or provide the number unnecessarily.
- Be careful when speaking with unknown callers. Scammers may mislead a person by using legitimate phone numbers or the real names of officials. If they threaten one or make a person feel uneasy, hang up.
- Create strong, unique passwords so others can’t easily access one’s accounts. Use different passwords for different accounts so if a hacker compromises one account, they can’t access other accounts.
- Never give one’s personal or financial information in response to an unsolicited call or message, and never post it on social media.
- Shred paper documents that contain personal information, like one’s name, birth date, and Social Security number.
- Protect a mobile device from unauthorized access by securing it with a PIN, adding a fingerprinting feature, or using facial recognition. A person can also add a password and adjust the time before the screen automatically locks.
- Regularly check financial accounts for suspicious transactions.
- Avoid internet threats by installing and maintaining strong anti-virus software on all devices—including a mobile device and personal computer. Use a virtual private network to stay safe on public Wi-Fi. Do not perform certain activities that involve sensitive data, like online shopping and banking, on public Wi-Fi networks.
- Protect oneself on social media by customizing the security settings and deleting accounts no longer used. Also, double-check suspicious messages from one’s contacts, as hackers may create fake accounts of people one knows.
- Never click on any link sent via unsolicited email or text message – type in the web address. Only provide information on secure websites.
Social Security encourages everyone to create their own personal my Social Security account to track one’s earnings record. For more information, please read the publication, Protecting Personal Information, at oig.ssa.gov/files/21-540_Protecting_Personal_Information.pdf. Contact Social Security if a person sees suspicious work activity on one’s record – one could be a victim of identity theft.