The FTC estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. This occurs when someone uses your personal information to commit fraud or other crimes. This personal information identifies you, such as your social security number, date of birth, legal name, or credit card number. Because this information can be used to commit various crimes in your name, it’s important that you take precautions to safeguard this information. This often comes up after you’ve been involved in an accident and the insurance company calls you seeking information regarding the accident, as well as personal identity information so they can investigate your claims history.
Most often, an insurance company will ask that you provide them with both your social security number and date of birth. Other than for Medicare reporting purposes, an insurance company has no legitimate reason for needing this information. However, if you are not a Medicare beneficiary, there is no need for you to provide this information and you can simply verify your non-beneficiary status on a Medicare form through the insurance company. While the insurance company or its representatives are not likely to be using your identity information for illegal purposes, once you provide the information it can go through a variety of channels and may end up in the hands of someone who will use it for an improper purpose.
Because the consequences of identity theft are great, always make sure that you know who you are giving your private information to and exactly for what purpose. If it’s not absolutely necessary to do so then err on the side of caution and keep it confidential. For more information regarding identity theft and how to protect yourself, visit www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft.
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