The Social Security Administration (SSA) has now added a new tool on their web site for tax-payers to detect employment-related identity theft. Your online account, known as "my Social Security," can give you access to your yearly earnings statement, among other things.
With this account, if your earnings are reported higher than what you actually earned, you might be a victim of identity theft. In such cases, an identity thief could be earning income in your name, using your social security number.
How does employment-related identify theft work?
If an identity thief discovers enough information about you, he or she can use it to obtain employment. Where do identify thieves get their information? Many of them get it online.
A survey found that users of LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook, and Twitter experienced higher rates of identity fraud than the average consumer in 2011. In fact, LinkedIn and Google+ users experienced the highest incidence of identity fraud compared to Facebook and Twitter users.
It's safe to say that most LinkedIn users are working professionals. You might expect working professionals to be tight-lipped with personal data. In practice, it appears they are not.
Obviously, identity theft is a violation of your privacy, but in spite of that, the SSA can potentially hold you liable for taxes owed on income earned. Other consequences include denial of unemployment or disability benefits -- if the government thinks you're employed when you're not.
One benefit of using a "my Social Security" account: the SSA no longer mails out an annual earnings and benefits statements. Your information is only accessible online. Identity thieves will have one less avenue for stealing your information by getting their hands on your annual statement, which are readily identifiable pieces of first class mail.
Your "my Social Security" account also allows you instant access to your benefit verification letter, payment history, and earnings record.
Identity Theft is a Growing Business
Identity theft is getting easier, thanks to information over sharing on social networks and other places. People share far too many details about their identities, including birth dates, phone numbers, high school or college names, etc.
According to another study, of those with a public social media profile, 68 percent share their birthdate.
Identity thieves start with your birthdate. And it is relatively easy these days to determine a child's birthdate on Facebook or other social network sites. Proud parents announce baby's full name and birthdate all the time.
By doing so, a criminal has roughly 14 to 16 years to use a stolen social security number because that newborn won't need proof of citizenship for a job until they start working in their mid-teens.
The moral of the story
Be very careful with the information you share online. Check your social network profile for your full name, birthdate, home address, home phone, spouse/partner name, high school name, and so one.
And don't share your children's details either. A child is 51 times more likely to have his/her identity stolen.
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