Please note that it is very important to keep the SSN confidential at all times and avoid carrying the SSN card in a wallet. This is a key piece of information that can be used in identity theft incidents.
Identity theft occurs when someone steals personal information and uses it to make financial transactions. This personal information can include an SSN, credit card number, birth date, phone number and/or address. One popular means of this is called “phishing,” where thieves pretend to be financial institutions or companies and send spam or pop-up messages to get individuals to reveal their personal information such as SSN, bank account and credit card information over the Internet. Please note that no bank or credit card company will ask for information by Internet or phone.
Another popular method used is an email message saying individuals have access to a large amount of money and someone can help them collect it. Individuals also may receive an offer to participate in a joint venture where they provide a certain amount upfront and gain a percentage of profits or an offer to cash checks and receive a percentage of a total of that cashed check. All of these are scams and fraudulent.
Always carefully guard all personal information, including SSN, passwords, log-ins and account information. Shred important and confidential documents when disposing of them. A “cross-cut” shredder can be purchased at electronic or home appliances stores. As a cheaper alternative, always cut out important information when disposing of documents.
The U.S. Department of Justice provides additional information on Identity Theft and Identity Fraud.
What to do when an identity has been stolen
Students and scholars who believe their identity has been stolen should visit the U.S. Federal Trade Commission website for information on what to do and file a report with the local police department. The USC Department of Public Safety (DPS) can assist with this as well.
One way to keep informed on the security of personal information is to request credit history checks on a regular basis.