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 people or organizations 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.
- Your state’s revenue department. To process your state taxes.
- The Social Security Administration. To record your work history and track future 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 (investment companies, for example).
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 online 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 (i.e. xxx-xx-1234).
Do not put your Social Security number on your checks. If requested by the government to place your number on a check to apply a payment, simply put the last four digits on the check.
Never give your number out over the phone or in an e-mail.
Remember to periodically check your credit score with the major agencies to ensure your data has not been stolen. Once stolen, it is often difficult to get a new SSN issued.