Knowing Your Rights

Identity theft

What is identity theft? Identity theft and identity fraud refer to crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person's confidential information to obtain goods and services.

Social Security Number (SSN) theft - Your U.S. SSN is linked to your credit history. Treat it as confidential information and avoid giving it out unnecessarily. If you feel uncomfortable giving out your SSN, ask why it is needed and what happens if you refuse to give your number. Generally though, your bank, employer, the Internal Revenue Service (for tax purposes), and the Department of Motor Vehicles (for your license application) are the ones who need your SSN. Utility companies, cell phone providers, prospective landlords, and credit card companies (for your credit card applications) will ask for your SSN.

You should keep your SSN card in a safe place with other important documents. Make sure you do not laminate your card and do not keep it in your wallet (in case your wallet gets stolen or lost).

Prevention - Yale's Information Security Office provides information about protecting yourself against identity theft and phishing scams.