5 Places Where You Should Never Give Your Social Security Number

By Adam Levin | Credit.com, March 29, 2013

Every time you go to a new doctor or dentist and they give you a clipboard brimming with documents to fill out and sign, notice how they always ask for your Social Security number? Do you dutifully give it up? Did you ever wonder if they really need it?

I once asked a doctor why he wanted it. His response: “I don’t really know. I guess it’s because we’ve always asked for it.” (In actuality, most doctors ask in case your insurance doesn’t pay the entire invoice and/or to fill out a death certificate if you die. Offer a next of kin who knows the number instead, and your phone number for billing issues.)

Almost every day somebody asks for your Social Security Number and, like the Grand Marshal of a parade throwing rose petals or candy to the crowd, you probably give it up without giving it a second thought — because that’s what you’ve always done.

So, the next time someone asks you for your Social Security number, reflect on this: In December, the Army announced that hackers stole the Social Security numbers of 36,000 visitors to Fort Monmouth in New Jersey, including intelligence officers. Cyber activists took control of the CIA’s website. The private information, including some Social Security numbers, of celebrities and political leaders including FBI Director Robert Mueller and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were exposed.

The sensitive data of First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder, recently were posted on a website for the world to see.

Hackers even listened in on a phone call in which the FBI and Scotland Yard were discussing the criminal investigation against those very same hackers!

And, these incidents are only the crumbs on top of the coffee cake when you consider that hackers and thieves have improperly accessed more than 600 million consumer files since 2004.

Monty Python had it right

The moral to these horror stories is that if your Social Security number is stored on any computer anywhere, hackers will find a way to access it, or a compromised or disgruntled employee may well walk out the door with it. If your doctor, gym, or child’s grade school claims otherwise, that their security systems can protect your private data better than the CIA, FBI and Scotland Yard, to quote Monty Python: “Run away!”

Your identity is your biggest asset, and your Social Security number is the key to your personal kingdom. With it an identity thief can wreak havoc, hijacking your old credit accounts, establishing new ones, buying cars and houses, committing crimes, even obtaining medical products and services while pretending to be you, endangering not just your credit and your reputation, but also your life.

Consumers whose Social Security numbers are exposed in a data breach are five times more likely to become fraud victims than those who aren’t, according to the latest identity fraud report by Javelin Strategy & Research.

Just say no

For better or worse, you are the gatekeeper. The person most responsible for shielding your Social Security Number is you. Therefore, your mission is to limit, as best you can, the universe of those who gain access to it.

Here’s a short list of companies and organizations that have absolutely no business requesting your Social Security number:

1. Anyone who calls or sends you an official-looking email, who texts you a link to any site or designates a number to call where you are asked to confirm your SSN. If they call, check the credit or debit card that is the subject of the communication, call the customer service number listed on the back, and ask for the security department. If they email or text, do the same, or go directly to the institution’s website (provided you know who they are). Make sure you type the correct URL, and make sure that the page where you are asked to enter your information is secure. Only provide personal information if you’re the one who controls the interaction.

2. Public schools: Your utility bill confirms your address. Your email and phone number give them channels to contact you in an emergency. Asking for your Social Security number is overkill.

3. Little League, summer camp and the like: For the same reasons as school, a Social Security number should never be required by these groups. If they ask for your child’s birth certificate, show it to them, don’t leave it with them unless they can prove they will protect it. And even then, can you really believe them?  If you use credit to pay for the activity, the organization may need your Social Security number. If you pay for it upfront or with a direct debit to your bank account or credit card, they don’t. Period.

4. Supermarkets: A frequent shopper card is neither a loan, nor a bank account. It’s merely a tool grocery stores use to track your purchases, primarily for marketing purposes. Regardless, many supermarket chains request customers’ Social Security numbers on their application forms. Refuse.

5. Anybody who approaches you on the street, whether it’s a cell phone company salesman offering a free T-shirt or someone running a voter registration campaign: Never, ever give your SSN. If you want an ill-fitting T-shirt festooned with corporate logos, buy one. If you want to register to vote, go to your county board of elections in person.

This is the short list. There are plenty of other organizations that should never get your Social Security number, and if you know one that I’ve left out, please leave it in the comments.

Don’t just hand it over

Once you realize how often you are asked for your Social Security number, you may be surprised. It happens literally all the time. So, the next time someone does, as they inevitably will, here’s how to handle it:

1. Take a minute and think. Maybe they ask for SSNs blindly, because everyone else does, or because that’s how they’ve always done it. Maybe they actually need it. See if their reason sounds legitimate.  (Update: For example, Credit.com’s Credit Report Card does ask for your SSN in order to generate your credit score and credit report summary — an industry standard – but the information is fully encrypted with a bank level authentication process.)

2. Negotiate. There are many different ways to identify you without a Social Security number, including your driver’s license or account number. Fight to use those instead.

3. If you must share your Social Security number, do so, but make sure the people taking it down have strong security measures in place to protect it. That said, you only have their assurance and frankly, in light of the mistakes people make and the sophistication level of hackers, who really knows if they can protect it?

Overcoming the addiction

If all this sounds like a giant pain in the neck, you’re right. It is. In the midst of our busy lives, we shouldn’t be the only ones concerned with protecting our most valuable identity asset, but it is what it is. Until somebody creates a Silver Bullet for identity theft, we are forced to take matters into our own hands.

Don’t be passive; ask the companies and nonprofit groups with which you do business how they plan to protect you. Do they password protect and encrypt all the personal information they collect? Do they have strict controls on who has access to computers containing your Social Security number, and do they keep this sensitive data off laptops, tablets and hard drives that are easy to steal or lose?

Like the doctor I met, many companies collect Social Security numbers they don’t need because they’re operating on autopilot. They’ve always done it, and their colleagues at other companies do it, so the practice continues and spreads on the strength of simple, dumb inertia. I believe that we are smarter than that. By demanding that companies do a better job protecting our personal information, and refusing to hand out our Social Security numbers like candy at a parade, we can force them to get smarter, too. And if they don’t think we’re serious about this and the government doesn’t finally force them off their Social Security number addiction, it is highly likely that the ultimate regulator of the American economic system, class action attorneys, will be knocking on their doors.

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Published in: on March 31, 2013 at 3:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

Man Who Robbed Presbyterian Orthopaedic Hospital Employee Sentenced to Prison

From The Charlotte Observer by Gary L. Wright, March 29, 2013

Lejarris Williams, accused of robbing a Presbyterian Orthopaedic Hospital employee last year, was sentenced Thursday to at least four years in prison.

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Williams

Williams, 31, of Charlotte, pleaded guilty to robbery with a dangerous weapon.

The victim, Michele Helms, told Mecklenburg Superior Court Judge Linwood Foust that the July 2012 armed robbery on the parking deck at Presbyterian Orthopaedic Hospital put her under extreme emotional stress.

“I’m still undergoing counseling,” she said. “I was extremely terrified that day.”

Helms’ robbery occurred three weeks after two Presbyterian Hospital employees were attacked on the same day. One of the employees, a nurse, was stabbed in a parking lot at the corner of Fifth Street and Hawthorne Lane across from the hospital. The assailant also grabbed her purse and tote bag. The other employee, a secretary, was assaulted in a parking garage where patients and employees park. She was pushed in a stairwell.

During Thursday’s hearing, Assistant District Attorney Dan McNeill told the judge that Helms was robbed after she’d gotten on the parking deck elevator.

Williams pulled a gun, the prosecutor said, and demanded Helms’ purse. Williams fled after Helms gave him the purse.

Hospital security guards pursued the robbery suspect, who was running from the scene. The suspect stopped when the guards pulled their weapons, the prosecutor said.

McNeill said Williams had Helms’ purse when he was captured. A handgun was found in Williams’ pocket, he said.

Defense attorney Karen McCallum told the judge that Williams wanted to apologize for robbing Helms. She described her client as “extremely remorseful.”

McCallum told the judge that Williams had a history of crack cocaine addiction and was impaired when he robbed Helms.

Foust sentenced Williams to prison for a minimum of four years and three months to a maximum of six years and two months.

Williams’ mother, Belinda Mobley, told reporters after the sentencing that she didn’t want her son to plead guilty.

“I wanted him to go to trial,” Mobley said. “He would have had a good chance of winning.”

Published in: on March 29, 2013 at 6:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

No Injuries in Matthews CVS Robbery

From The Charlotte Observer, March 28, 2013

No injuries were reported Friday morning in an armed robbery at a drug store in Matthews, according to reports.

Matthews police were investigating at daybreak Friday at the CVS store on Matthews Township Parkway at Sam Newell Road. That is a short distance from the Matthews police station and Matthews Presbyterian Hospital.

Published in: on March 29, 2013 at 6:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

Grocery Store Robbed on The Plaza at 6:30 AM

From The Charlotte Observer, March 28, 2013

Police are looking for a man after a northeast Charlotte grocery store was robbed at gunpoint Friday morning.

The robbery was reported about 6:30 a.m. at the Food Lion on The Plaza and Matheson Avenue. According to police reports, a man burst into the store before the 7 a.m. opening and demanded money at gunpoint.

The man fled after the robbery, and police searched the area for more than an hour afterward. No injuries were reported.

Published in: on March 29, 2013 at 6:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

2nd Arrest Made in 1991 Charlotte Rape Case

From The Charlotte Observer by By Steve Lyttle, March 28, 2013

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police say they’ve made a second arrest in a 1991 rape case.

Vernon Lamont Wylie, 41, was taken into custody Thursday by officers with CMPD’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Team.

But Wylie hasn’t been jailed yet. While being questioned at police headquarters, he began complaining of chest pains, police say. Wylie was taken to Carolinas Medical Center for evaluation. When he is released from there, police say, he will be jailed.

The rape was reported in August 1991 in the 2600 block of Beechnut Drive. That is near West Boulevard and Remount Road in west Charlotte.

Police say a woman was abducted by two men in a car. The victim was taken to an unknown location, where she was physically and sexually assaulted, police say. Investigators were not able to come up with a suspect in the case at the time.

However, officers with the Sexual Assault Cold Case Unit, using DNA, developed suspects last year. Drayton Lamar Thompson, 42, was arrested in December.

Wylie has been charged with two counts of first-degree rape, two counts of first-degree sexual offense, first-degree kidnapping, and conspiracy.

Published in: on March 29, 2013 at 6:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger to Unveil Legislation Backing Steeper Child Abuse Penalties, Inspired by ‘Kilah’s Law”

From The Charlotte Observer, March 28, 2013

U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger is expected to announce federal legislation Thursday to increase penalties for people convicted of child abuse.
The proposal – which will be called the “Kilah Davenport Child Protection Act of 2013” – is named for a Union County toddler who police say was severely beaten by her step-father last summer. Kilah was hospitalized with severe brain damage and a fractured skull, and doctors have said she’ll likely have the mind of a 3-year-old for the rest of her life.
Pittenger will announce the new legislation at a press conference set for 10:30 a.m. Thursday at Crossing Paths Park in Indian Trail. Members of the Davenport family and grassroots activists also are expected to attend, according to Pittenger’s office.
“Children are precious, but in too many states, the punishment for severe child abuse is shockingly mild, almost a slap on the wrist in some states,” Pittenger said in a news release. “The punishment needs to fit the crime.”
The federal legislation comes as N.C. lawmakers are considering a state bill that would also increase penalties for five child abuse-related felonies. Currently, in the worst cases of abuse, an offender could serve up to 15 years in prison. But the proposed state bill would increase that to a maximum of nearly 33 years.
The state bill has cleared the N.C. House, but the Senate referred it to its appropriations committee in two weeks ago because of reported concerns about finding $800,000 to implement the tougher penalties.

Published in: on March 28, 2013 at 11:31 am  Comments (1)  

CMPD Searching for Suspects in Daylight East Charlotte Home Invasion

Frfom The Charlotte Observer, March 28, 2013

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Wednesday were searching for suspects involved in the home invasion and robbery of an east Charlotte apartment.
Two suspects armed with a handgun forced their way into an apartment in the 1400 block of Wembley around 4 p.m. Tuesday and ransacked the apartment for electronics and cash, according to a police report.
One suspect bound three victims who were present during the robbery with power cords and watched over them, while the other stole money, a flat-screen television, video game systems and accessories, computer equipment and cell phones the report shows.
The suspects also stole the victims’ 2008 Dodge Magnum as one of their getaway cars, according to the report.
No one was injured during the robbery.
Copyright 2013 . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Published in: on March 28, 2013 at 10:39 am  Leave a Comment  

CMPD Arrests Fourth Suspect in West Charlotte Shooting

From The Charlotte Observer By Cameron Steele, March 26, 2013

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police have arrested a fourth suspect in connection with the fatal shooting of west Charlotte resident Ronny Steele.

James Maurieo Hunter, 32, was arrested in Florence County, S.C. Tuesday after Charlotte-Mecklenburg detectives obtained a murder warrant in his name.

Detectives were headed to South Carolina around 2 p.m. to pick up Hunter and bring him back to Mecklenburg County, where he’ll be held in the county jail.

Steele, 57, died of a gunshot wound Feb. 25 at a residence in the 2800 block of Wedgefield Drive, off of Old Steele Creek Road, in the Wingate neighborhood east of Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

Already charged with murder and arrested in the case are Ryan Kendell Andrews, 24, Reuben Timothy Curry, 28 and Charlie Edward Snowden, 29.

Published in: on March 27, 2013 at 9:11 am  Leave a Comment  

SouthPark Macy’s Employee Arrested for Embezzlement

From The Charlotte Observer By Cleve R. Wootson Jr., March 26, 2013

A Charlotte woman has been charged with embezzling more than $2,000 from the Macy’s department store at SouthPark Mall.

Shamika Freeman, 27, was arrested at the store on Saturday and later released from Mecklenburg jail on $3,000 bond.

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Freeman

Freeman, a cashier at the department store, was questioned by the company about questionable transactions on Saturday, according to a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police report. She admitted to making 17 fake refund transactions between September 2012 and February 2013, “in which she knew the items being returned to her had not been paid for,” according to the report.

Freeman “placed all of the money on store gift cards and gave the gift cards to an unknown subject,” according to the report.

Police officers responded to the store around 6:30 p.m. on Saturday and Freeman was arrested there.

She’ll make her first court appearance on Monday.

Published in: on March 27, 2013 at 9:09 am  Leave a Comment  

Woman Leads Troopers on Chase Before Crashing on Independence Blvd.

From The Charlotte Observer By Steve Lyttle, March 26, 2013

A woman who allegedly was trying to escape from state troopers was injured early Tuesday when her car crashed in southeast Charlotte, according to the N.C. Highway Patrol.

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A woman who allegedly was trying to escape from state troopers was injured early Tuesday when her car crashed in southeast Charlotte, according to the N.C. Highway Patrol. WCNC.COM PHOTO

Troopers say the woman was driving more than 70 mph on outbound East Independence Boulevard.

The series of events began shortly after 2 a.m., troopers say. The N.C. Highway Patrol was using radars to clock motorists on East Independence Boulevard near Eastway Drive, as part of the “No Need 2 Speed” campaign that started Monday.

Troopers say radar indicated one outbound motorist was driving more than 75 mph in a 50 mph zone, and troopers began a pursuit.

The driver of the car would not stop, authorities say, and the pursuit continued past Sharon Amity and Idlewild roads. Troopers say the driver turned off Independence Boulevard onto Wallace Lane. The driver’s car then slammed into a telephone pole on Dorn Circle.

The driver, a woman whose name has not been released, had to be freed from the wreckage. She was taken by Medic to Carolinas Medical Center.

Troopers say charges are pending.

Published in: on March 27, 2013 at 9:05 am  Comments (2)  
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