One of the fastest-growing crimes today is identity theft. If someone has your Social Security Number (SSN), he or she can assume your identity and misuse your personal information. This can cause a lot of problems for you and your family.
When to Provide Your SSN
Your SSN provides access to various sensitive data, such as your name, places of residence, education, professional credentials, credit information, and possibly even medical history. You should be careful who has access to this important information. The last thing you want is to put your SSN (and your livelihood) at risk. Knowing when and when not to provide your SSN is the first step to protecting it.
The easiest way to protect your SSN is to not give it away freely. Avoid providing it simply because a business or organization asks for it. Although, this may be easier said than done.
Of course, there are many legitimate reasons to provide your SSN to an organization. For example, you can’t open a bank account, apply for a credit card, or get a loan without providing your SSN.
Places where you may need to provide your SSN include:
- Credit cards or loan applications
- Cell phone service providers
- Department of Motor Vehicles
- Credit reporting agencies such as Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion
- Federal and state agencies such as Medicare, Medicaid, or other aid programs`
- Firms that facilitate real estate transactions
Other organizations ask for your SSN out of habit. The following is a list of places where you may be able politely decline giving your SSN:
- Colleges or universities
- Primary and secondary schools
- Summer camps
- Grocery stores
- Charities service providers
How to Protect Your SSN
While it’s important to know when to provide your SSN, it’s also important to know other ways to safeguard it. Here are 10 tips for protecting your SSN:
1. Inquire about acceptable alternative forms of ID
At some businesses or organizations, there are other forms of ID you can offer instead of your SSN. For instance, you can provide your telephone number, school ID number, driver’s license number, or a current utility bill. Often, all you need to do is ask if there is another form of identification you can give instead of your SSN.
2. Ask questions
Not all organizations need to know your SSN. If an organization asks for it, you have the right to ask why they need your SSN, how they use it, who else has access to it, and what security protocols the organization follows.
3. Keep it locked away
Your Social Security card needs to stay in a safe place, so don’t carry it with you. It’s best to leave at home, in a safe, or in a safety deposit box at the bank. Ideally, all you need to do is memorize the number so that you can quickly provide it when and if needed.
4. Dispose of important documents properly
You may be surprised by the amount of identity theft that occurs from thieves going through other people’s garbage. That’s why you should shred any documents that contain sensitive information before disposing of them.
5. Never use your SSN as a password
Avoid using any personal information as a password, especially your SSN. In fact, it’s advisable not to create a password using even the last four digits of your SSN.
6. Avoid sharing your SSN through electronic devices
Information sent through electronic devices can be hacked. So don’t write your SSN, not even the last 4 digits, in an email, text, fax, or voicemail. Similarly, don’t enter it on unsecured websites.
7. Beware of scammers
Don’t share your SSN with anyone demanding it over the phone, even if they claim to be federal or law enforcement agents. Simply hang up and report the incident to the Office of the Inspector General.
8. Remain alert
Identity thieves often target bank and credit card accounts, leaving behind a trail of unpaid bills. Monitor your accounts for purchases you didn’t make or credit cards you didn’t apply for. The second you see suspicious activity, report it.
9. Use a credit report and identity theft protection service
For a nominal cost, a credit report and identity theft monitoring service can help protect your SSN. They can alert you if your SSN is used for a new loan or credit card application or other suspicious activity.
10. Protect your family’s SSNs
While it’s important to protect your own SSN, you should take it a step further and make sure your family is protected as well. Helping protect your child’s and spouse’s SSN can help keep you safe too.
Your SSN is your personal information, so protect it at all times. Taking the necessary precautions can help you keep your identity safe. That’s why United Medicare Advisors has partnered with IdentityIQ services to give our customers peace of mind when online. Visit their page to learn more.