Safely Using Your Social Security Number
Your Social Security Number (SSN) is the link between you and your Social Security information. It makes sure there is an accurate record of your wages and any self-employment earnings. You need a Social Security number to get a job and to receive most government services. Because of this, Social Security numbers are often stolen and used for identity theft. If you lose your Social Security card, there’s a chance someone else has it. Before ordering a replacement Social Security card, be sure to check your credit status and make sure it hasn’t been used.
Who Actually Needs Your SSN?
There are only a few organizations that actually need your SSN. Unfortunately, there are a lot of companies that ask for this number, even when they don’t need it. A lot of people hand out their Social Security information without thinking twice about the possible outcomes. Knowing when you should give out this number can make sure you stay protected.
These are some common ways you might need to use your Social Security number:
- Credit card companies
- Cash transactions over $10,000
- Bank account and loans
- Applying for federal disability benefits
- Military paperwork
- Department of Motor Vehicles
If you are applying for a service or product with your personal credit, they will need your SSN in order to view your credit report. This will come up if you are applying for some type of loan. Some of the federal benefits that require your SSN include: Medicare and Medicaid, unemployment insurance and disability benefit income, services such as free or reduced lunch, and financial aid for school.
You Don’t Have To Give Out Your Information
Companies may ask for your Social Security number, but that doesn't mean you have to give it to them. Often times doctors and dentists, supermarkets, drugstores, preschools, and even airlines may ask for your personal information. These companies have their reasoning for asking for this information. For example, many doctors will ask for this information so they have it in case you die while in their care, so they can put it on the death certificate. Even though there are reasons these companies have for asking this information, it doesn’t mean you have to give it to them.
Safely Giving Out Your Social Security
The less times you give out your Social Security number, the better. If you do end up having credit fraud, if you’re able to remember all the times you gave out your number, catching the fraud will be easier.
Giving Your SSN Over The Phone
Never give out your Social Security number over email or the phone if you didn’t initiate the call. If someone calls you and is asking for sensitive information, they could simply be posing as a government agency that needs your SSN. Fraudulent calls happen frequently and it's important to keep your ear out for them. If they talk about debt or bills that you potentially own, they are probably just fishing for your information. Don’t give in unless you can verify the caller’s identity.
Using Your SSN Online
It can be dangerous using your SSN on your computer or phone. There are reports of information being stolen off a computer including Social Security numbers or credit card numbers. It’s important to not store this information on your computer in anyway. Your computer is susceptible to people looking for sensitive information and could lead to having information stolen from you.
If you are required to submit your Social Security number online, be sure that the page is protected by HTTPS and it is a secure use of your information. When applying for SSI, you will be required to provide your SSN. When entering your information, be sure the page you are entering your information on hasn’t been redirected as is still part of the original application.
Ask If It’s Necessary
For organizations where a SSN is not required, but asked for, there are ways to politely decline giving out your SSN. If you are asked to provide your SSN, ask the organization why they need it. Many times, it’s because they want to use this as a unique identifier for you. In order to combat this, ask that they provide an alternative way to create this unique identifier. They will probably have a way to bypass using your Social Security information as this is a common request. People who are smart with their information understand the harm that can come from giving it out.
If you have an emergency contact listed, they could provide your SSN in the event of your death. If you are asked to give your child’s Social Security number for school or other extracurricular activities, many times this is to establish proof of identity and a birth certificate is usually sufficient. When traveling, airport security is stringent enough that you don’t have to provide this information if you are using other proper forms of photo identification.
Who Would Steal Your Social Security Number?
A thief can do a lot with your SSN, so it makes sense why someone would want to steal it from you. Unlike when other things get stolen from you, you may still know your Social Security number or have your Social Security card. The person who steals your SSN isn’t necessarily the person who uses the number against you. There are avenues that criminals use to buy and sell Social Security information to the highest bidder.
What Criminals Do With Social Security Numbers
When a criminal gets a hold of a new Social Security number, there are many fraudulent activities they can do to affect that person's credit in a negative way. Protecting your credit comes from staying aware of your bank accounts, and your Social Security status.
Credit And Financial Fraud
When a criminal has someone’s Social Security information, they can use it to open any number of financial accounts, credit cards, loans, and other things. If they have a sufficient amount of information, they are not limited to what they can do with it. This means you will be entitled to pay those fees and your credit will be affected by those loans, not theirs!
Social Security Fraud
If you receive retirement benefits, a person with your Social Security number can redirect these payments elsewhere so you no longer receive them. If you rely on these payments to survive, it’s important to make sure you are the only person who has access to this information. Losing access to your social security benefits can be hard to reverse, and will require you to prove your identity in other ways.
In addition to getting free money in a way by stealing your SSN, thieves can get medical care using your SSN and your health insurance. Not only will this give you surprise medical bills, this would taint your medical record and could cause you to get bad care in the future with misdiagnoses and wrong treatments. Thieves can also commit crimes, in addition to the one that they are committing, by stealing your SSN. Thieves can give law enforcement your SSN and this could cause you to have a criminal record that can prevent you from getting jobs.
How Can You Protect Your Social Security Number?
Protecting your Social Security number comes from monitoring your credit at least once a month. When someone uses your Social Security number, there will be a note on your record, and you can check and notice transactions that were not made by yourself. When this happens, be sure to consult a fraud agency to help you keep your losses to a minimum.
How Do I Check To See If Someone Is Using My Social Security Number?
You can invest in credit monitoring which will send you notifications when your record is accessed. Checking your bank account daily is a great step towards staying on top of your credit.
What Happens If Someone Gets My Social Security number?
When someone has your Social Security number, they can do damage to your credit, steal your social security benefits, and claim to be you in illegal or medical situations. This is considered identity theft.
Who Will Ask For My Social Security Information?
Banks, the Government, and the Department of Motor Vehicles will all ask for your Social Security information at some point. These institutions keep your information safe and use your personal information for services.