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Six Important Tips for Social Security Number Protection

As you may have heard, identity theft is on the rise, and one of the most appealing targets for identity thieves is your social security number.

Why? A person or identity thief who has access to your social security number can use it to:

  • Get into your bank account - Once a scammer has your social security number, they may be able to withdraw money from your bank account or apply for loans in your name.
  • Open credit cards in your name - Through your social security number, identity thieves can apply for credit cards in your name without your knowledge. Not only will you be liable for paying off any charges that they rack up, but your credit score may be permanently damaged.
  • Collect your tax refunds and benefits - Any tax refunds, disability benefits, Medicare benefits, survivors' benefits, retirement benefits, or SSI income that you usually receive from the federal government can be taken by a scammer with your social security number.

For these reasons and others, it's vital to educate yourself on social security number protection and to know where your nearestsocial security office locations are should you need to replace a stolen social security card.

Read on for our most crucial tips on how to protect your social security number from identity thieves, fraudsters, and other types of scammers.

SSN Protection Tip #1: Treat Your Social Security Card Like a Precious Heirloom

Many people carry their social security card in their wallets. We advise against this. In the event that you get mugged or lose your wallet, your card may be used to commit identity theft.

We recommend that you keep your social security card in a well-concealed safe. Treat it the same way you'd treat your grandfather's watch - like something precious and irreplaceable.

Another way to protect your social security number is to memorize it, so you never need to show it to anyone. If you need to provide your social security number over the phone, don't share it in a public place. Instead, go to your car or another private location and disclose it there.

Don't Share Your SSN Via Text, Email, or Online Messaging

If you text your social security number to another party, anyone with access to your phone (or their phone) will be able to steal it.

The same goes for sharing your social security number through email or social media networks, such as Facebook. If someone hacks into your account - or the account of one of your contacts-your social security number will be at risk for exposure.

Finally, be wary of public Wi-Fi networks.

To protect your social security number, never enter it into a form on an employment or government-related website when you're connected to a public Wi-Fi network. Open networks like that are easy for others to spy on, allowing them to see which websites you're visiting and what you're typing into unencrypted web forms.

SSN Protection Tip #2: Be Careful on the Phone

Have you ever gotten a call from a mysterious phone number?

Many years ago, it was possible to assume that calls from mysterious numbers were innocent in origin. Nowadays, scammers use mysterious numbers in order to hide their identities while they trick you out of your personal information.

The simplest way to deal with this deplorable practice is not to answer calls from unknown numbers. However, some identity thieves use fake caller IDs, which can fool you into thinking that they're legitimately calling from a government agency.

In that case, you can protect your social security number by watching out for these common phone scam signs:

  • The caller threatens you
  • The caller says there is a "problem" with your social security account
  • The caller demands that you pay a "fine" using an odd form of currency, such as a retail gift card, wire transfer, prepaid debit card, Bitcoin, or by mailing cash

If you receive a suspicious call like this, do not give your social security number to the caller.

Instead, contact the agency that they say they're calling from and ask if the request you received was real.

If it wasn't, make a report about the call to Social Security Administration (SSA) through their dedicated online form.

For enhanced social security number protection, teach yourself about the latest phone scam tricks shared by the SSA.

SSN Protection Tip #3: Watch Your Mail

Did you know that identity thieves can gain access to your social security number through your mail?

One of the best ways to protect your social security number is by:

  • Shredding any pieces of mail that contain your personal details
  • Emptying your mailbox daily
  • Paying attention the when your monthly bills, benefits, and pay stubs arrive (and investigating if certain pieces of mail seem to be missing)
  • Asking a housesitter to collect your mail if you're planning to sleep away from home for more than two days

SSN Protection Tip #4: Don't Use Your SSN as ID

Here are the businesses and organizations that need to know your social security number:

  • Your employer(s)
  • Your bank or mortgage lender
  • The U.S. Treasury (for savings bonds)
  • Your state's unemployment insurance department
  • Workers' compensation insurance organizations
  • Federal and state welfare programs

Businesses and organizations that aren't on this list don't have a real need to know your social security number. If you're asked to provide it, protect your social security number by using an alternate form of identification, such as:

  • Your driver's license
  • Your passport
  • A piece of mail that's addressed to you at your current address
  • Your student ID

If the person you're speaking to won't accept an alternate form of ID, don't be afraid to ask why they need your social security number. If the reason they provide doesn't make any sense, report it to the SSA.

SSN Protection Tip #5: Know the Red Flags for Text & Email Scams

Another way that identity thieves try to gain access to your social security number is through text and email scams.

These scams are similar to phone scams, but there are a few key differences that savvy consumers should be aware of.

Text & Email Scam Red Flags

  • The text message or email looks like it's from a bank, social media network, or brand that you trust, but the email address or phone number it came from doesn't look official.
  • You're being asked to re-login to an account.
  • The message seems focused on making you click a link with a strange URL.
  • You're told that you're eligible to register for a government refund.
  • The message is asking you for personal information.
  • You're being offered a massive discount that seems too good to be true
  • The message includes a fake invoice

If you get an email like this, protect your social security number by flagging the email as junk. Contact the company directly, via phone, and ask if they sent you the message in question.

Follow the same policy when it comes to fraudulent text messages. Block the sender of the message and report on the scam to the company that supposedly sent the message.

This is one of the most efficient ways to protect your social security number as well as the social security numbers of others.

SSN Protection Tip #6: Make Online Security a Priority

When planning how to protect your social security number, don't overlook your online presence. Identity thieves can discover your social security number through hacking into your accounts.

Keep your online accounts safe by:

  • Using strong passwords - You should never use a password that doesn't contain a mixture of numbers, letters, and symbols. Don't use the same password across multiple accounts. Most importantly, never use your SSN as a pin (especially not the last four digits)

  • Installing firewalls on your home computer - Firewalls and virus-detection software prevent hackers from discovering your passwords and getting into your records.

  • Using two-factor authentication - Two-factor authentication increases the security of your password-protected accounts by asking you to provide another piece of information in addition to your login information. Often, this is a special pin number which is texted to your cell phone. To enhance the already-high safety of two-factor authentication, password-protect your phone as well.

You can also take advantage of various online tools for protecting your identity.

These include:

  • Regularly reviewing your credit report
  • Checking your bank account balance daily
  • Asking your bank to text you an alert if any large withdrawals are taken from your accounts
  • Signing up for an identity theft protection service

If Your Social Security Number Is Stolen, Don't Panic

Even if you try very hard to protect your social security number, it's possible that you may come across an identity thief. If you think that your identity was stolen and not sure how to report identity theft to social security, we'll help.

If this happens to you, don't waste time freaking out or berating yourself. Instead, act quickly, so you can mitigate some of the worst effects of social security number loss.

Here' what to do if your identity is stolen:

  1. Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and report that your identity may have been stolen. You can do this athttps://identitytheft.gov/SSA or by calling 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338).
  2. File a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). They'll let local law enforcement know what's happened to you. Don't skip this step! Some credit card companies won't let you dispute fraudulent charges unless you've made a police report.
  3. Freeze your credit. You can do this for free via the National Consumer Telecommunications and Utilities Exchange. Once your credit freeze is in place, it will be impossible for identity thieves to apply for credit cards in your name.

How to Replace Your Social Security Card

Replacing your social security card can be a daunting and complex process.

If you're interested in finding a remote, and stress-free option for getting a new social security card, NotYourSocialSecurity (NYSS) is your one-stop solution. NYSS can help you replace your card from the comfort of your own home.

Not only does our E-Records tool allow you to skip the long lines at your local social security office, but our experts will guide you through every step of this process.

Get in touch today to discover just how easy social security card replacement can be!

Sources:

Federal Communications Commission. Protect Yourself from Social Security Number Spoofing Scams. https://www.fcc.gov/protect-yourself-social-security-number-spoofing-scams

Federal Trade Commission: Consumer Information. How to Recognize and Avoid Phishing Scams. https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/how-recognize-and-avoid-phishing-scams

Investopedia. 10 Ways to Protect Your Social Security Number.
https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/021216/10-ways-protect-your-social-security-number.asp

Norton. How to Protect Your Social Security Number: 10 SSN tips.

https://us.norton.com/internetsecurity-id-theft-10-tips-to-help-protect-your-social-security-number.html

Social Security Administration. Identity Theft and Your Social Security Number.

https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10064.pdf

Social Security Administration. Protect Yourself from Social Security Scams. https://www.ssa.gov/scam/

Social Security Administration. Social Security: Fraud Prevention and Reporting. https://www.ssa.gov/antifraudfacts/

United States Government. Identity Theft.

https://www.usa.gov/identity-theft