At home, you can lock your doors. When it comes to your car, you can activate the alarm system.
But what can you do to protect your identity?
Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes in America. Someone illegally using your Social Security number and assuming your identity can be more trouble than a car thief or house burglar.
Identity thieves can use your number and your good credit score to apply for more credit in your name. Then, they use the credit cards and do not pay the bills. You may not find out that someone is using your number until you are turned down for credit or you begin to get calls from creditors demanding payment for items you never bought.
What better time than National Safety Month to educate yourself in protecting your personal information? Following are some quick tips:
Keep your Social Security card at home in a safe place, wherever you keep your important paperwork;
Safeguard your number as well - don't give it to just anyone; many places you do business with may ask for it as a means of identification even though they can use other identifying information; and,
Shred before you toss - identity thieves can rummage through your trash or recycling material and find a goldmine of information, so be sure to destroy any identifying information before you throw it out.
While we're talking about safety, here's another great tip: if you receive a benefit from Social Security, get direct deposit.
With direct deposit, your payments are electronically sent right to your account and there's no risk of a payment being lost in the mail or stolen from your mailbox.
At Social Security, signing up is quick, easy, and secure. Visit www.socialsecurity.gov/deposit to learn more.
Read our online fact sheet about identity theft at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10064.html.
If you believe someone may be using your number or identity, you should contact the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft, or call 1-877-438-4338; TTY 1-866-653-4261.
Iris Greene is the Social Security manager in Prescott.