Retirement: How to thwart identity thieves

Experts say protecting your Social Security number and rejecting online and phone scams are critical to protecting your personal data from falling into the wrong hands.

A Social Security number is like gold to an identity thief. A crook can use it -- along with other information, such as your name, address and birth date -- to open credit card or loan accounts, file a fraudulent tax return, obtain government benefits, even get medical care.

Never carry your Social Security card in your wallet, and don't leave anything in your car that contains your SSN or other sensitive information. If you don't think an organization needs your SSN, omit it on forms. (Your bank or lender,...