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Rules that prevent tax ID theft

Your Social Security numbers and tax ID numbers are highly confidential, and need to be kept as such. Consider these tips on protecting them from Gary Markey, of the Stambaugh Ness accounting and business consulting firm, headquartered in York, Pa.

• Never carry either number with you unless you know you’ll need to show it to a service provider or an employer.

• Keep your original SSN card and other important papers together and in a safe place. That’s why banks provide lock boxes.

• If someone asks for your SSN or tax ID number, find out why and who’ll have access to it.

• Merchants only need your driver’s license number, never your SSN.

• If your insurance card includes your SSN, only carry it when you need health-care services. Better yet, photocopy the card and blacken out the last four digits on the copy.

• Never have your SSN printed on checks or anything else — except on your brain.

• Never use the last four digits of your number as a personal identification number (PIN) for your ATM, or banking or credit transactions.

• If your bank or credit union uses your SSN as a PIN, ask to have a different number assigned.

• Unfortunately, the SSN continues to be used on Medicare cards. Ask your congressional representatives to have the law changed.

Key Points

• Keep your original SSN card and tax ID number in a secure place.

• Question why anyone wants these numbers, and who has access to them.

• Order a free credit report. You may be surprised what’s on it.

Monitor your credit standing

If you think your SSN has been compromised, place a 90-day fraud alert on your credit reports by calling one of the three credit bureaus: TransUnion, 800-680-7289; Equifax, 888-766-0008; or Experian, 888-397-3742. Then renew the fraud alert every 90 days. If you’re concerned about your SSN security, now’s the time to order a free credit report. You can get one a year by calling 877-322-8228 or by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com.

Then monitor your credit reports very closely. And, request a new credit report within 90 days even if you have to pay for it. When you pay for one, the provider will immediately alert you to any changes. Do not order at www.freecreditreport.com. You’ll be asked to pay up front.

Check the Social Security Personal Earnings and Benefit Estimate Statement (PEBES) that you receive each year. If any information is incorrect, contact the Social Security Administration at 800-269-0271 immediately, or visit www.ssa.gov.

Also notify the police and the Federal Trade Commission and establish a seven-year fraud alert if you have evidence of attempted or actual identity theft.

This article published in the September, 2010 edition of AMERICAN AGRICULTURIST.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.