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Protect Your Social Security Number

Protecting your Social Security number is one of the most important things you can do to prevent identity theft.

Americans are asked to provide our Social Security numbers for many reasons, not all of them necessary and the more you provide your Social Security number, the more opportunity for it to be compromised.

 

According to the Social Security Administration, the Social Security number (SSN) was created in 1936 for the sole purpose of tracking the earnings histories of U.S. workers, for use in determining Social Security benefit entitlement and computing benefit levels. Over the years it has become the chief means of identifying and gathering information about an individual for the government and private sector.  

You have control over who gets your Social Security number. It is not necessary to provide it to everyone who asks, so make sure you understand why they need it and how they will be using the information. Remember the fewer people who have your Social Security number, the better for you.

 

Here are some measures you can take to protect your Social Security number:

  1. When a business or other organization asks for your Social Security number, ask why they need it and offer another form of identification. Alternative forms of ID may be a driver’s license, passport, or proof of current and previous address (such as utility bills).
  2. Always ask how your Social Security number will be used.
    • Why is it necessary that you have my Social Security number?
    • If I provide it, who will you share it with?
    • How will you store it?
    • Do you have a privacy policy, and may I read it?
    • Will you cover any liability or losses if my Social Security number is lost or stolen?
  3. Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet. It would be rare for you to be asked to present it. And don’t enter it into your cell phone, laptop or other devices. Commit your Social Security number to memory and keep your card in a safe place at home.
  4. Shred all documents that contain personal information such as your Social Security number. Discarded mail and documents are a prime target for identity thieves. It’s also a good idea to check your mailbox regularly and not let your mail pile up as mailboxes are also targets for identity thieves.
  5. Never use your Social Security number or part of it as your password. It can be stolen or decrypted by identity thieves.
  6. Don’t send your Social Security number electronically via email or text message. These messages can be intercepted and read by identity thieves.
  7. Never give your Social Security number to strangers. If someone calls or emails you asking you to provide your Social Security number do not comply. Do not provide your Social Security number to anyone who you are not sure has a reason to have it.
  8. Monitor your bank accounts and credit cards. This is a good way to ensure that your Social Security number has not been compromised. You may be able to sign up for alerts with your bank that let you know if someone has tried to access your account using your social security number. You should also regularly check your credit report for any new accounts that you did not open.
  9. If you have children, you need to protect their Social Security numbers as well. This is important when you are visiting a doctor, they do not need your child’s Social Security number, they can use your insurance card as identification.

Even if you take all the above precautions, there is still a chance that your Social Security number may be stolen. What do you do if that happens? The first thing you should do is contact the Social Security Administration. The easiest way to do this is by visiting the Social Security Administration website or calling toll-free 800-772-1213.

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