Your Social Security Number (SSN) is the most sensitive piece of information tying to your name. It’s a number that you do not want anyone else to know. With minimal information about you, plus your SSN, anyone could commit fraud under your name. So, you must learn how to protect your SSN now!
Common Cases of Social Security Number Identity Theft
Social security identity theft is nothing new. It’s an approach that many identity thieves take, because the SSN serves as a golden meal ticket. Yet, the ways that these criminals obtain the number in the first place are often the same.
Here are the most common ways your SSN could get stolen:
- Your purse or wallet is lost or stolen,
- Your mail was taken or failed to re-direct,
- Your information gets compromised in a data breach,
- Your documents get stolen by family, friends, or staff, or,
- You get tricked by a phishing style scam (ex. Vishing).
As you can see, some of the possible ways your SSN could get stolen are not preventable. This means you cannot guarantee that your identity stays safe. Of course, using a trusted identity theft protection service (like LifeLock) can help. You will still want to know everything you need to do, supposing someone does steal and use your SSN.
Did Someone Steal Your Social Security Number?
Here are some reasons to question whether your SSN was stolen:
- You receive mail for a fraudulent account in your name,
- You stop receiving mail due to an unauthorized address change,
- Your credit report contains obvious errors,
- Your debit card PIN no longer work, or,
- Your credit card gets declined.
Regardless of the reason why, you should address your worries right away!
Sound stressful? It’s really not …
You Just Need a ‘my Social Security account’
SSA.gov is the official website of the Social Security Administration (SSA). It offers many helpful pieces of information and various types of forms. The website also offers a ‘my Social Security account’ feature. This allows anyone in the United States (with a Social Security Number) to keep track of where their SSN gets used. This information is made available through your Social Security Statement, which you can access at any time.
To sign up, you must supply your full name, date of birth, home address, and Social Security Number. Before going to the next page, you are given the option to request a text message notification any time you log into your account. This is beneficial to have, because if your account gets compromised you will find out right away. To complete your registration, you will also have to verify your identity by answering a few questions about yourself.
Some other great perks for my Social Security account users include the ability to change your address, direct deposit information, and request a replacement Medicare card. During the tax season, you can also log on and request a new copy of your SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S form.
How Else Can I Keep My SSN Secure?
There are many things you can do to further protect your SSN from identity theft risks.
First, you need to make sure that no one has any direct access to your SSN. This means you have to keep your SSN card on lock up. It’s not always needed when you are out and about, so put the card in a safe until you really need it. If the card is ever lost or stolen, make sure to request a replacement from the SSA.
Next, understand who you can trust with this number. You should limit this to a short list, such as credit report bureaus, employers, and the government. It’s not necessary to provide your SSN to verify your identity when setting up most accounts. For example, a cell phone provider can use your credit card to confirm your identity.
Oh, and don’t forget to observe a lot during tax season!
This is when the SSN identity theft attacks really take place. The vast majority of these criminals will take your SSN and file fraudulent tax returns. As a result, you could end up with some funny mail that just does not seem to add up. Or, you might not end up getting any tax-related mail at all.
- Keep paperwork with your SSN secure
- Shred the documents when no longer needed
- Avoid entering your SSN when on public Wi-Fi
- Enter your SSN online only from a secure computer
- Mark down every instance where your SSN is given out