Financial Illiteracy Month Part III: 5 Ways to Get Your Identity Stolen

Editor’s note: In Part III of our Financial Illiteracy series we reveal 5 things that could put your identity at risk.

1. Keeping your social security card in your purse or wallet

This one’s crazy. Your social security card belongs in a secure place such as a home safe or bank’s safe deposit box. Finding a social security card in a wallet or purse is a identity thief’s dream. And don’t jot the number down on a piece of paper and keep it in your wallet or purse either.

And a quick thought on your children’s social security cards — they should also be kept in a safe place. Don’t let your kids bring them to school or keep them in a drawer in their bedroom. And if your child memorizes their number, make certain that they understand it’s a private number. They should never give it out to anyone unless you’re present and know it’s safe.

2. Posting your profile information on social media

All of your profile information should be kept private. Better yet, don’t list things like your date of birth, address, phone number, or email on any of your social media profiles — you’re risking social media theft. Why take the risk just because you want to hear from friends on your birthday? Also, don’t take selfies or other pictures showing off your new driver’s license, credit cards, or debit cards.

3. Giving out personal information over the phone or online

By now most people have heard the horror stories about scammers posing as IRS agents or law enforcement officers over the phone. They demand social security numbers and personal banking information and use them to ruin the finances of the frightened person on the other end of the line. Don’t let them scare you into giving up your information. A real IRS agent will never cold-call or email you directly. If they need to reach you, they’ll contact you by mail.

It’s rarely necessary to give out personal information online. One exception may be if you’re filling out an online job application. If the social security field is required, be sure you are on the company’s official site and that you are not using public WiFi. And make sure to keep your personal information safe from nosy retailers.


4. Sharing information about your kids recently reported on children’s online privacy  and found that parents are more than willing to post pictures of their kids on social media. Some even helped their kids who were under 13 set up social media accounts. It’s not illegal, but it’s not safe either.

What’s worse is the kids could unwittingly put up personal information about their parents online. It’s better to first have a long chat with your kids about identity theft and how easy it is for thieves to steal their personal information. The Federal Trade Commission also provides some useful tips on how to protect your kids’ identity.

5. Using a phone case that doubles as a wallet

Some people may disagree because they love the convenience of having their phone and wallet in one place, but it’s risky. People have a tendency to take their phones out in public and check their messages or go online. When they’re done they leave their phones out on the table or bar.

If you scan the tables at a restaurant or walk down the aisle of a bar, chances are you’ll see a bunch of phones sitting out. If your phone and wallet are all in one place, thieves will get a bonus when they steal it — your credit cards, ID, phone and money all in one shot. It’s better to keep them separate.

We hope this information is helpful and you’ll put it to good use. Don’t forget to check out our next installment of Financial Illiteracy month next week.

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