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Identity theft: It's no joke

When the first of April comes, you may be on guard to protect yourself from an April Fools' Day prank. But every day of the year, you should be wary of identity thieves.

Identity theft is no joking matter. Identity thieves victimize millions of people each year. Identity thieves have some sly tricks to obtain your personal information:

--Stealing wallets, purses and mail.

--Posing by phone or e-mail as someone who legitimately needs information about you, such as employers or landlords.

--Stealing personal information you provide to an unsecured site on the Internet, from business or personnel records at work, and personal information in your home; or

--Rummaging through your trash, the trash of businesses and public trash dumps for personal data.

Don't be fooled by identity thieves; take the proper precautions. Be sure to safeguard your personal information, such as your Social Security number and mother's maiden name.

If an identity thief scores this information, it could result in more than monetary loss for you as a victim; it also can hurt your credit score and record.

You can help protect yourself by not carrying your Social Security card with you and not providing personal information to unknown sources over the Internet or by phone.

Be sure to shred documents, bills or paperwork before you throw them away. Most important, never reply to an email claiming to be from Social Security that asks you for your Social Security number or other personal information.

If you are contacted by someone claiming to be from Social Security and you have doubts about the validity of the caller, call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

If you think you've been the victim of identity theft, contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-438-4338, TTY 1-866-653-4261, or go to and click on the link for "Report Identity Theft."


Question: What can Social Security do to help me plan for retirement?

Answer: Social Security provides great financial planning tools that can help you make informed decisions.

Visit and open a "my Social Security" account to access your online Social Security Statement. The statement lists your earnings and the Social Security taxes you paid over the years. It also estimates the Social Security benefits you (and dependent family members) may be eligible to receive.

The statement can help you plan for your financial future. Also, use Social Security's online retirement planner and our online Retirement Estimator. These will give you estimates of your future Social Security retirement benefits.

They also provide important information on factors affecting retirement benefits, such as military service, household earnings, and federal employment.

You can access the retirement planner at www.socialsecurity. gov/retire2. Find the estimator at