Hey, That’s My Identity!

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January 21, 2011

Money can’t be found at the end of a rainbow, hiding in a pot of gold, but that doesn’t stop people from wishing. Unfortunately, there are thieves out there who will search for and find ways to get what they want at the expense of others.

One of the newer types of thievery is identity theft, in which a person will steal pertinent information about you, particularly your social security number, and use it to do such things as order new credit cards in your name. There are many places to get information from, but one of the avenues available in the past has recently been closed to them.

Most documents submitted to courts become part of the public record, which means anyone can look at them. Until now, petitions for dissolution, separation, and annulment contained your address, social security number, name and birth date, so it was easy for thieves to obtain all the information needed to steal your identity very quickly. The Oregon legislature recently took steps to improve the confidentiality of social security numbers by taking away the requirement that petitions for dissolution, separation and annulments list the parties’ social security numbers. After this new legislation, identity thieves will have to become more creative, which means that you must keep your guard up in other areas of your life.

A few things you can do to reduce your chances of becoming a victim:

1.   Protect your social security number. Don’t give it out unless absolutely necessary and refrain from carrying your social security card in your purse or wallet. Do not preprint your social security number on your checks. Check to see if your medical insurance card has the number on it.

2.   If you don’t have one already, buy a shredder. Make sure you use it on all documents that have your personal information before throwing them away.

3.  Put all outgoing mail with personal information in mailboxes that lock or bring it directly to a post office. Get a secure mailbox or a post office box for your incoming mail. One of the easiest ways for a thief to get information is to walk down a street and take everyone’s mail out of the boxes.

4.   Do not give your credit card number or other information over the phone unless you called the other party.

While it may be a little harder to get information from court documents, the problem of identity theft continues to grow. You may want to start regularly checking your credit report to see if new accounts are being created in your name. Also, keep careful track of the charges on your credit card to see if someone else is using your number. Above all else, be aware; don’t be caught staring off into the clouds looking for rainbows and pots of gold while someone is stealing your identity from right beneath your nose.