Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Protect your credit rating, protect your ssn

Identity theft is too easy, and all too common these days. Yet still many places have you fill out forms by hand or online where you have to provide your social security number. For instance, to volunteer coach a youth soccer team requires a back-ground check, which requires your social security number. Do you trust the club's web site ? Do you trust the office where you submit paper forms ? Here some ideas to help minimize exposure.

First, question if your social security number is really needed. If you're applying for credit, or signing a lease for an apartment, then of course, yes, the lender needs it to check your credit history. In other situations, especially when it has nothing to do with finance, but merely as a unique identifier for you person, you can question the use. Sometimes in a doctor's office they just need it to look you up on the insurance company's site. In that case, you can ask to provide your social separately on a piece of paper that you then get back and destroy. That way your number is not written on a form that floats around the office and sits in a file cabinet for years.

If speaking with a representative is not an option, leave the social security number blank, or enter all 1's if you fill out online. I've done that several times and never heard back -- they clearly didn't need the number after all.

Why protect your social ?  With it, and some other generally easy to get information like address and date of birth, people can open lines of credit in your name, and run off with the money. Even if you straighten things out with the bank, you're likely still left with a dent on your credit record. Not only that, it could take months to sort out, and during that time you better not need a loan.

We can be smart investors, and carefully place our bets, but if we don't also protect our credit from fraud, we could end up losing a bundle.  I'd love to hear how you handle your social security number, please share!

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