Sue Scheff: Identity Theft – What Teens Need to Know

With the expanding Internet use by almost everyone and every organization and business, identity theft is a growing problem. 

South Florida is one of the prime stomping grounds for identity theft.  Florida became the state with the highest per capita rate of reported identity theft complaints, totaling 22,664 in 2009, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

Stealing a social security number can create havoc for the owner of that number. 

Reported by the Miami Herald, 18 year-old Tia Nicole Holzworth plans to attend community college and works an after-school job managing rides at the Fun Spot amusement park in Florida.

She is not a dishwasher, paver installer or construction worker.

Yet her Social Security number was used by a score of undocumented workers doing those blue-collar jobs during the past two years in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, authorities say.

A recent study by the Federal Trade Commission found that more than 20,000 kids and teens were the victim of identity theft in 2008.

If your teen is getting a job this summer, or applying to colleges, talk to them about securing their social security number.   Until it happens to you, you cannot imagine the stress and frustration you will have to go through to explain that you are a victim of identity theft.  Years from now as you apply for a mortgage or want to purchase a car, your credit report may pop up suspicious activity. 

Teach your teens now how to protect their identity.  It could save them a lot of grief later.

How to safeguard your Social Security number:

• By law, your Social Security number is only required for opening new financial accounts or lines of credit, obtaining a job or for governmental purposes such as taxes or benefits.

Ask questions: If a company asks for your number, ask under what law they need the number and offer an alternative identification. Only give it out if you feel comfortable with the company, and if you don’t, be prepared to do without its services.

Don’t carry your Social Security card on a daily basis. Memorize the number. If your Medicare card had your number, make a wallet-sized photo copy for your wallet or purse and black out the final four digits.

Shred any financial documents that might have your Social Security number before trashing them. Monitor your financial statements closely. And be wary of entering your Social Security number on web sites.

Your Social Security number can be changed if you can prove you have been the legitimate victim of identity theft.

• For more information, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10064.html  

Sources: Social Security Administration, Identity Theft Resource Center, Miami Herald

You can also visit the Identity Theft Resource Center for more helpful tips on securing your identity.  Read more.

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