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Facebook puts Social Security numbers at risk

February 14, 2011
Daily Press

How can your Facebook page contribute to someone stealing your identity via your Social Security number? Studies show that computer programs can successfully guess 8.5 percent of the Social Security numbers of people born since 1989. This is done by using information from your social networking sites and other public sites.

Unfortunately, Social Security numbers are not random. The first three digits are part of the zip code where you received your Social Security number. So, putting your hometown on Facebook is a generous tip to con artists wanting to steal your identity. The next two digits are determined by where and when you applied for your Social Security number. The last four digits are supposed to be random but tend to be in sequential order. That means if you give your birthday online, you have given the con artists another tip.

The good news is starting this year all nine digits will be more random. The bad news is you cannot change your Social Security number. You need to do all that you can to protect the one you have and your identity in general.

Tips to do just that:

- Don't carry your Social Security card nor have the number printed on your driver's license or checks.

- Don't carry your birth certificate, passport or extra credit cards, except when necessary.

- Shield the screen or keypad when entering your personal identification number (PIN) at an ATM or public telephone.

- Don't use common words or anything else that would be easily discovered when creating passwords and personal identification numbers.

- Opt out of pre-approved credit offerings.

- Cancel all unused credit card accounts and keep a list of your credit card account numbers, issuers and customer service telephone numbers.

- Follow up with creditors if your bills don't arrive on time to be sure an identity thief hasn't taken over your account and changed the billing address.

- Review your bills and statements for unauthorized use.

- Tear and shred all items with your personal information on it.

- Don't leave mail in your mailbox overnight.

- Check your credit report annually.



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