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The most frequently used record keeping number is the Social Security number. Identity theft is a serious crime and one of the fasters growing crime today. People who have been robbed of their identity spend hundreds of dollars and take hundreds of hours fixing it. Hence, the biggest step you can do to prevent identity theft is to keep it safe.

Identity thieves use a variety of methods to gain access to your data. Most of them have even gone high-tech. Here are some ways how identity thieves get hold of your Social Security Number:

• They get information by sorting through trash for personal data
• They get information from businesses by stealing records while they are on the job; hacking through the records and bribing an employee who has access to the records
• They will steal your wallet or your mail
• They can pose as someone who legitimately needs information about you
• They can steal your number form unsecured websites on the Internet.

As anyone with your Social Security number can easily create a credit nightmare, there are ways you can do to reduce your risk of identity theft. These include:

• Carefully guarding your Social Security Number
• Do not carry any document containing your Social Security Number such as insurance cards and your Social Security card.
• Make sure that those requesting for your number are legitimately asking it
• Closely monitor your credit report as it contains your Social Security Number.
• If you are applying for a loan, request that your Social Security Number on the application be completely obliterated and returned to you once a decision has been made.
• Avoid printing your Social Security number on your checks.
• Ask for your Social Security Earnings and Benefits statement once a year to check for fraud.

If, however, you have done everything to fix your problem and still someone steals your number, the Social Security Administration can give you a new number. Nevertheless, you cannot get a new number if you file for bankruptcy, if your Social Security card is lost or stolen but there is no evidence that someone else is using your number and if you intend to avoid your legal responsibility. If you believe that someone is using your Social Security number, you can file a compliant with the Federal Trade Commission or if someone is using your number for employment purposes, you could contact Social Security.
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