If you are like thousands of American’s you keep your Social Security card in your wallet. After all, isn’t this what they told you to do at the social security office? Heck, even the card itself states to keep it in your wallet. But in this day and age, this cannot be a worse idea. Identity theft is rampant and obtaining a valid Social Security number is every ID thief’s goal. But not too long ago, it was a different story. How much so you ask, well let’s get into the way-back machine and travel to the happier times of yesteryear.
It’s 1938, and wallet manufactures would put fake cards into their product to demonstrate how well the cards would fit into their wallets. This included fake Social Security cards. However, in the case of one manufacture, it was decided to put a fake Social Security card sporting a real Social Security number! Douglas Patterson, vice president of the E.H. Ferree Co, had the brilliant idea to use his secretary’s Social Security number on the cards inserted into their wallets. And so it was that Hilda Schrader Whitcher, became the unfortunate holder of the most infamous Social Security number in American history.
People purchased the wallets, and some assumed that the social security number listed on the card in their new wallets, now belonged to them. At it’s peak in 1943, 5,755 people used her social security number as their own! Prompting the FBI to show up at her house to investigate the going’s on. A quote by Hilda, posted on the SSA website states “They started using the number. They thought it was their own. I can’t understand how people can be so stupid. I can’t understand that.”
Eventually, her number, 078-05-1120, was removed by the Social Security Administration, and Hilda was re-issued a new card and new number. When all was said and done, over 40,000 people had used the number! This number was used even as recently as 1977.
While this story sounds light-hearted and entertaining, the truth is, someone obtaining your Social Security number is not fun and games. While most of us think that identity theft is only about debts, it can also be criminal activity, medical records and fraudulent tax returns. All of which could be horrific nightmares for the victims.
It cannot be understated how important it is to monitor your credit reports. It can be a good indicator that something wrong is going on with your number. You can obtain a free credit report, once per year, from www.annualcreditreport.com . You can choose to run all three credit reports at once, or toggle them every 4 months. As an example, run Experian now, then in four months, run Equifax, then four months later run Transunion, then four months later start all over again. This is a great was to keep on top of your credit. This is a completely free service and does not sign you up for a credit monitoring service.
Another was to stay safe, is to hire a company such as “lifelock”. They effectively “lock” your social security number and make it so that only the password holder can use their number. Of course, if you keep your passwords on your computer and your computer is hacked………well, good luck.
The fact is we live in a very technological age, and if you are not careful, anyone can steal your information. And if you still wish to carry your Social Security card in your wallet, you may get what’s coming to you.
So again I ask you…What’s in your wallet?!
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