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Identity thieves key in on brides as potential victims

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A woman who is getting married considers a host of factors when deciding whether to change her last name to that of her husband — everything from how a name change might affect her sense of identity to whether sharing the same last name makes a family feel more bonded.

  The modern world has added a new element for brides to consider: identity theft.

  While it's not a reason to keep your maiden name, it's important to be aware of how the name change process can increase your risk of identity theft. These precautions will serve you well as you go through the name-changing process. You'll be changing important documents, such as your Social Security card and driver's license and sharing identifying personal information with several organizations, including credit card issuers and your bank.

  If you decide to take your spouse's name or to hyphenate your maiden last name with your married last name, you'll need to make changes anywhere your maiden name appears. Many of those documents and accounts will be of interest to identity thieves, including: Social Security card, driver's license, passport, bank accounts, credit cards, health insurance cards, investment accounts, gym club memberships, vehicle registration and auto insurance.

  For women who try to balance the desire to maintain their individual identity with showing solidarity for their mate by hyphenating their last name, keep in mind that doing so puts your maiden name out there for everyone to see when, down the road, your children may need to use it as a security question answer.

  If you decide to change your name, you can take steps to help prevent identity theft, including:

Using an identity theft detection, protection and resolution product like ProtectMyID. The service monitors your credit report daily to help catch signs of identity theft quickly.

Do as much of the legwork in person as possible. Take your marriage certificate to your local Social Security office and complete the change form there. Don't fax or email it, even if a Social Security agent agrees to accept it in this form. And never leave your marriage certificate with the agent.

Likewise, head into your local bank branch and fill out in person the paperwork necessary to change your name.

Call credit card issuers regarding the name change after you've received your updated Social Security card and driver's license. Some may be willing to conduct the change over the phone, but others will ask to see your marriage certificate. Be sure to find out if they can take a photocopy or if they require an original duplicate.

Ask the credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your account for several months after you change your name. The alert will help you detect any attempts by someone else to use your personal information.

  Finally, if you're thinking of keeping your maiden name to avoid the hassles of changing all your documents and accounts or the threat of identity theft, consider this: Keeping your maiden name may not prevent identity theft. If you don't use your "married name," an enterprising identity thief just might. Since the name the fraud would occur under is different from the one you use, you might not become aware of the theft for some time.

  The question of whether to change your name doesn't have a right or wrong answer or guidelines that suit everyone. The need to take steps to protect your identity, however, is universal — regardless of what name you decide to use.

Distributed by ARA Content

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