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HSFPP Weekly Update #98 Protecting Your Social Security Number
Message from Chris Hart: Hi, for those of you who are new to the listserv and others who may not remember me from earlier updates, I am a junior work/study student who works for Dr. Flashman. My major is actually Telecommunications, but I feel like I should receive an additional degree in financial education for all I’ve learned over the last two years, working on these weekly updates. My first work on the weekly updates was to look at the contents from the high school student’s perspective, since I had just finished high school and had not taken any high school courses dealing with financial education, but wished I had. As you can tell from this week’s update, this year I will do more than look at each update from a teenager’s perspective.
This week’s lesson is on identity fraud using Social Security numbers and other personal information. During my first two years at UK, our Social Security number was used as the ID number on our student identification cards. This obviously was not a good way to protect student privacy, as our ID is used for most of what we buy at UK, as well as by local merchants. What if my wallet had been stolen? In addition to my credit and debit cards, a thief would have had access to my Social Security number via my student ID, which could severely damage my credit rating. It also would have cost me many hours to get my identity back. Thankfully, at the end of my sophomore year we were required to get new cards for free. (Did I say free? Don’t get me started on the recent tuition increase! For more on this, look at previous updates, such as # 32, # 73, and # 82, which deal with paying for college.) I was surprised we weren’t charged another $10 or $15 dollars for the cards like we’re now charged for the paper when we print material from school computers! Anyway, the new cards don’t have our SSN, but a different number; and this, at least, is an improvement.
Many people, especially teenagers, don’t really know who they should give their SSN and/or credit card information to, and who they shouldn’t. It pays to find out, as the consequences can be alarming.
Website Pick of the Week:
Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, Family Resource Management publications available online. Many of these publications are on subjects covered in the HSFPP curriculum, such as budgeting, credit, and consumer protection, so they could easily be used as course materials.
Activity for Educators:
Use the twelve True/False questions below.
Source: American Express, 1993.
Answers: 1. False; 2. False; 3. False; 4. True; 5. False; 6. True; 7. True; 8. False; 9. True and False; 10. True; 11. True; 12. False.
For more information about Social Security privacy, go to http://www.ca.uky.edu/fcs/FACTSHTS/FAM-RHF.111.PDF
This publication is called, “Do You Know Where Your Social Security Number Is Right Now?” It is one of the many helpful publications available on the Website Pick of the Week.
In the New$... Safeguard your Social Security Number
“‘I think it’s spooky. Everybody has that one number, and everything about you is tied to it,’ worries Jim Edwards, program director at WJNO in West Palm Beach, Fla.
“‘Put it in a computer and poof – here’s your bank account, your phone number, where you work.’
“The key to all that private information? Your Social Security number.
“Edwards was way ahead of most people. Back in the early ‘80s, he refused to give his Social Security number when he enrolled at Miami Dade Community College. The school wanted to use it as a student identification number, but Edwards held his ground and the school gave him a different number – all zeros, as he recalls.
“Today, schools, phone companies, utilities, health clubs, insurance companies, video stores – just about everybody wants your Social Security number. Some of the more prevalent uses are to get your credit rating and determine whether you pay your bills, and to keep track of you through name and address changes.
“But companies also use your Social Security number to develop marketing lists, which they can sell to other companies. A list with the numbers is more valuable that one without.
“Why should you care who sees your Social Security number? The more people who see it, the more susceptible you are to identity theft, where you are victimized by someone fraudulently using your name and credit report to steal money.
“Identity theft costs American businesses billions each year, costs that are eventually passed on to all consumers. The toll on victims is heavy, too. The California Public Interest Research Group estimates that, on average, an identity theft victim will spend 175 hours and $800 trying to clear their record of fraudulent charges.
“‘I’ve seen accounts opened with wrong names and different addresses. As long as there’s a SSN, that’s all some of them care about,” says Linda Foley of the Identity Theft Research Center in San Diego.
“Who has the right to ask for your digits?
“While any business can ask for your Social Security number, there are very few entities that can actually demand it – motor vehicle departments, tax departments and welfare departments, for example. Also, SSNs are required for transactions involving taxes, so that means banks, brokerages, employers, and the like also have a legitimate need for your SSN.
“Most other businesses have no legal right to demand your number.
“‘There is no law prohibiting a business from asking for your Social Security number, but people don’t know they can say no,” says Carolyn Cheezum of the Social Security Administration.”
To read the full article, go to: http://moneycentral.msn.com/content/Banking/FinancialPrivacy/P33718.asp
Questions for Students:
Circle T for True, or F for False, for these questions.
- Anyone who works in a department store or credit card company can look up your credit records. T F
- If a mistake gets into your credit file, it’s almost impossible to correct. T F
- When you owe money, people can call you at home or at work any time to try to collect it. T F
- There are many different computer files about every person in this country. T F
- The information on a birth certificate, marriage license, driver’s license, voter registration card, and in medical records is public knowledge; anybody can get copies. T F
- Many companies have policies that protect the privacy of their customers, but some don’t. T F
- You always have a legal right to ask people why they need the information before you answer a question. T F
- Records of telephone calls in and out of a house are public, not private. T F
- The government protects your right to privacy. T F
- The information you give to one company can be used to create a mailing list for other companies. T F
- People can check your credit file if you are applying for a job, insurance, credit, or renting an apartment. T F
- If you want to get a copy of your credit file, all you have to do is ask for it. T F
Kentucky High School Financial Planning Program
The purpose of this Web site is to assist county extension agents, credit union educators, and high school teachers in improving the economic well-being of our constituency, beginning with todays students; and also, to assist teachers in Kentucky in meeting KERAs goal that all students become technologically literate. Weekly Updates are provided by the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, and are free to all educators.