Q. What can I do if I think someone has stolen my identity?
A. You should do several things, including:
• File a report with the local police or the police department where the identity theft took place, and keep a copy of the police report as proof of the crime.
• Notify the Federal Trade Commission (1-877-ID-THEFT or 1-877-438-4338).
• File a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.
• Contact the fraud units of the three major credit reporting bureaus: Equifax (800-525-6285); Trans Union: (800-680-7289); and Experian: (888-397-3742).
If your Social Security card has been stolen, you can apply for a replacement card. But you usually don't need a new card as long as you know your number. To protect yourself in the future, treat your Social Security number as confidential and avoid giving it out. Keep your Social Security card in a safe place with your other important papers. Do not carry it with you. Learn more by reading our publication, Identity Theft And Your Social Security Number, at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10064.html.
Q. I heard that my disability must be expected to last a year to qualify for Social Security disability benefits. Does this mean I have to wait until I've been disabled an entire year before applying for disability through Social Security?
A. No. If you believe your disability will last a year or longer, apply for disability benefits as soon as you become disabled. It can take an average of three to four months to process an application. If your application is approved, we will pay your first Social Security disability benefits for the sixth full month after the date your disability began. For example, if your state agency decides your disability began on Jan. 15, we will pay your first disability benefit for the month of July. We pay in the month follow-
ing the month for which they are due, so you will receive your July benefit in August. For more information about Social Security disability benefits, refer to our publication, Disability Benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10029.html.
Submit questions to local Social Security Director Gregory Holmes by writing to Business Editor Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times Free Press, P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN 37401-1447, or by e-mailing him at email@example.com.