Speaking Out to Indian Country About Identity Theft
When listening to Tribal Elders and community members across Indian Country, together we learned about how individuals can become victims of identity theft.
Have you ever lost your wallet? Tribal ID Card? How about losing personal documents containing your Social Security Number? Having conducted various presentations to tribal communities about identity theft, I have learned that losing these documents can turn into a nightmare.
Identity thieves can be very clever using your personally identifying information to commit fraud and other crimes. It is estimated as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. Identity thieves can open new credit card accounts in your name, open cell phone accounts, and even get a driver’s license or official ID card issued in your name. Resolving the issue is time-consuming as well as costly to repair damage done to a good name and credit record.
Be careful with your Social Security card and number
Show your card to your employer when you start a job so your records are correct. Provide your Social Security number to your financial institution(s) for tax reporting purposes. Keep your card and any other document that shows your Social Security number on it in a safe place. DO NOT routinely carry your card or other documents that display your number.
If you have your Social Security number printed on your Tribal ID card of the Certificate of Indian Blood (CIB), ask your tribal enrollment department if an alternate number can be used. This is important since we use this documentation instead of the traditional forms of documentation such as State issued ID cards or driver’s licenses.
If a telemarketer calls you and insists you provide your Social Security Number, bank account information, or credit card numbers, you do NOT have to provide this information. There are scams out there that could lead to you becoming a victim of identity theft.
Did you know that each year you are able to request a free credit report from the three Credit Bureaus? You can do it at annualcreditreport.com or by calling 1-877-322-8228. Checking your credit report on a regular basis will allow you to detect Identity theft before too much damage has been done. By doing this, you will also find out what credit has been issued in your name and any overdue debts you might not have incurred.
For more information, read our publication, “Identity Theft and Your Social Security Number." If you think you have been a victim of identity theft, contact your Tribal Police Department to file a report and use the Federal Trade Commission Identity Theft kit to correct the situation.
Remember, protect your Social Security Number and any other documents containing your number such as your Tribal ID Card, Certificate of Indian Blood, Medicare Card or other tribal issued documents.
Kimberly Yellow Robe(Rosebud Sioux) works for the Social Security Administration, San Francisco Region. She is the American Indian Public Affairs Specialist and coordinates outreach and education programs for American Indians and tribal communities. If you have questions about Social Security feel free to contact her at Kimberly.Yellow.Robe@ssa.gov