Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

4/17/08- East Texas

Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft

ICE agents were able to track down illegal workers through the help of hundreds of victims of identity theft. Some of the undocumented immigrant workers at "Pilgrim's Pride" allegedly used other people's social security numbers. KLTV 7's Courtney Lane tells us what some of these victims faced and how you can protect your identity.

It's scary how easy it is for someone to steal your identity.

"Anyone can just make up a number, have a false social security card made and put the name on there," said Officer Don Martin with the Tyler Police Department. 

One illegal Pilgrims Pride worker used a New York woman's social security number to gain employment.

"That woman in New York had applied she had heart problems and wanted medical attention through her medical care provider," said ICE Special Agent John Chakwin.  "The medical care provider said they could not give her health care because she was already covered by a primary care provider here in Texas."

Other victims from this massive case of identity theft owed as much as $17,000 in unreported wages, were denied health care and social security benefits, and some were even arrested for crimes committed by the identity thieves.

"What happens quit often if you're getting into some of these counterfeit social security numbers is they basically just made up a number, but there're so many real numbers out there that it's very likely they've hit a real person," said Assistant District Manager with the Social Security Administration Robert Kennedy. 

But what can you do to protect yourself?

"Never give it to anyone over the phone unless you specifically know who you're dealing with," said Martin. 

Also never carry your social security card with you: keep it at home in a safe place. And you may want to check out identity theft protection with banks and insurance companies.

"It's like having a car wreck, you have to call the insurance company," said Kay Robinson with the Better Business Bureau of Central East Texas.

Many said it's better to be safe than fall victim to identity theft, because once you do it could be a long, hard road to get your life back.

Officials also said you need to double-check all of your records including bank statements, credit reports, and your annual statement of reported wages from Social Security. If there's anything wrong with your credit, contact the "fraud department" of a major credit bureau.

Courtney Lane, Reporting

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