SBS NOVA | How to Protect Your Social Security Number from Theft
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How to Protect Your Social Security Number from Theft

How to Protect Your Social Security Number from Theft

With the dramatic increase in identity theft, what can be done to protect your Social Security Number (SSN) from these would-be thieves? Here are some ideas.

Do not carry your Social Security Card with you. Your parents were encouraged to do this, but times have changed. You will need to provide it to a new employer, but that is about it.

Know who NEEDS your Social Security Number. The list of those who need to have your number is limited. It includes:

  • Your employer. To issue wages and pay your taxes.
  • The IRS. To process your taxes.
  • The State Revenue department. To process your state taxes.
  • The Social Security Administration. To note your work history and record your benefits.
  • Your retirement account provider. To enable annual reporting to the IRS.
  • Banks. To enable reporting to the IRS.
  • A few others. Those who need to report your activity to the government (example: investment companies.)

Do not use any part of your Social Security number for passwords or account access. Many retirement plans use your Social Security Number to enable you to access their on-line tool. When this happens, reset the login and password as soon as possible.

Do not put your Social Security Number on any form. Unless a business has a legal need for your number, do not provide it. Common requestors of this number are insurance companies and health care providers. Simply write, “not available due to theft risk” in the field that requests your number. If the supplier says they need it, ask them why.

Do not note your full Social Security number on any form. If you are required to give out your number, try marking out the first five numbers. (xxx-xx-1234)

Do not put your Social Security Number on your checks. Certainly not on your pre-printed checks. If requested by the government to place your number on your check to apply your payments, simply put the last four digits on the check.

Never give your number out over the phone or in an email. The only exception is when you make the phone call to a valid source that will need the number to access your account.This list is very limited. It includes calls you make to the IRS, Social Security, your state government, and limited partial numbers to your bank and health care insurance company.

Remember to periodically check your credit with the major agencies to ensure your data has not been stolen. Once stolen, it is often difficult to get a new SSN issued.