Your Social Security Number (SSN) is an extremely valuable piece of personal information. It is unique to you, and with it identity thieves can commit multiple crimes in your name, including tax and credit card fraud. Follow the 5 tips below to help you protect your SSN and your identity as a whole.
1. NEVER Carry Your Social Security Card
Carrying your social security card with you is the easiest way to get your SSN stolen or compromised. Most people already carry some form of state issued ID in their wallets or purses, so if you were to lose your entire wallet (including your SSN card), someone would have all the necessary information to successfully steal your identity.
2. Create a mySocialSecurity Account
A mySocialSecurity account allows you to see all things associated with your Social Security number. You can view and manage benefits you may be eligible for; order a new card in the event that you lose yours; and, you can also see all earnings that have been associated with your SSN to verify that the information is accurate.
3. Never Send Your Social Security Number Electronically
Most reputable institutions will not ask you to send your full Social Security number electronically (i.e. email, text message, etc.), but if they do, it is imperative that you refuse. Not only is this an electronic documentation of your information, but it also leaves your SSN vulnerable. Hackers may gain access to your information through the same WiFi network you are using, or if you or the recipient’s email gets hacked at a later date.
4. Guard Your Final Four
The last 4 digits of your SSN are completely random and specific to you, therefore they’re most important. The first 5 digits are assigned based on where and when you were born. It is easy for identity thieves to learn the first 5 digits of your SSN based on your birthdate and birth city, so if a thief also gains access to your last 4 digits they could easily learn the entire 9-digit string.
5. Avoid Providing Your SSN When Asked
There are only a few agencies that require your SSN in order to obtain services from (i.e. employers, financial institutions, medical insurance providers, etc.). If someone outside of these essential services asks for your SSN, you should not provide it to them.