Let’s face it there are no eight numbers more important than your social security number. It may seem like an exaggeration.
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You should know that every aspect of your life is tied to your social security number: loans, college admissions, health insurance, social security benefits, taxes, and bank accounts, to name a few. If your social security number gets into the wrong hands, it can wreak havoc on your life.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), there have been 95,901 total reports of government imposter scams back in 2022 alone. The number 1 governmental agency impersonated? That’s right: The Social Security Administration. In 2022 alone, imposters claiming to be working for the Social Security Administration amounted to $46.37 million in total losses.
A Social Security card is displayed in Tigard, Ore., Oct. 12, 2021. Individuals will be allowed to make sure their records with the Social Security Administration align with their gender identity under a plan announced Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File)
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5 types of social security number fraud
In almost every type of identity theft, your social security number is usually a crucial piece of information necessary to hijack your identity.
Below are the top 5 ways fraudsters and criminals use your social security number in the different identity theft scams:
1. Criminal identity theft:
Criminals take your social security number as the cornerstone to establish your identity, as it is required to apply for a driver’s license, ID card, or passport. When crimes are committed with the identity tied to your social security number, authorities can end up on your doorstep with a warrant for your arrest for crimes you didn’t even commit!
2. Business impersonation:
The top pieces of personal information criminals try to squeeze out of you when impersonating businesses is your social security information. Oftentimes, criminals impersonate official government agencies such as the IRS or Social Security Administration agency to trick or scare you into disclosing your social security number or part with your hard-earned money. They can then threaten you for more money or sell your information online.
3. Medical identity theft:
You need your social security number to get health insurance, and if you make use of Medi-Cal, Medicare, or Medicaid, you will be required to share it to receive coverage or services. The consequences don’t even involve just losing coverage or being unable to receive services. With your social security number being used in medical identity theft, a completely different person can be impacting your medical records with services rendered and prescriptions filled.
Following an executive order from Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, the state’s Department of Licensing no longer quickly confirms identity through Social Security numbers. (AP)
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4. Synthetic identity theft:
With as little information as your social security number, criminals can use it in combination with theirs to create a hybrid identity to open accounts, take out loans, and do whatever they please with this ‘new’ identity while ruining yours.
5. Child identity fraud:
There’s something especially troubling about the latest trend to steal the social security number of children. However, due to the fact that social security numbers rarely become an active part of most people’s lives until they start applying for colleges or financial loans, this type of identity theft usually goes unnoticed for years, which means more damage to undo.
Top ways to keep your social security number safe?
Now that you know how someone can take your social security number and use it to commit identity theft, below are key ways to keep it safe!
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1. Hide/safe keep your social security number card:
Put your social security number card in a very safe place, such as a safe, bank safe, or filing cabinet that can be locked. Because it is used so frequently, those 8 digits are worth memorizing. If your wallet is lost or stolen and you keep your SSN card in there, it will be messier than losing just money or your ID. Don’t carry your social security card in your wallet or purse!
2. Use an identity theft or fraud protection service
Companies such as Identity Guard can monitor your SSN and alert you if it is sold on the dark web or being used to open an account. The faster you know, the quicker you can shut down the damage. In fact, some companies will help you freeze your bank and credit card accounts to prevent further use by criminals. Fortunately, taking advantage of stellar fraud protection from our top pick, Identity Guard is even more affordable with an exclusive CyberGuy savings (up to 51% off).
See my tips and best picks on how to protect yourself from identity theft by searching ‘identity theft‘ at CyberGuy.com by clicking the magnifying glass icon at the top of my website.
3. Go online:
Skip jotting down your social security number on in-person forms. When your social security number is jotted down on paper, it is hard to control how the information gets used or disposed of. If you can submit forms online, you can skip the risk of having your SSN from getting into the wrong hands. If you mail in forms that denote your SSN, you risk having that piece of mail stolen or lost.
FILE: The IRS mistakenly posted the Social Security numbers of tens of thousands of Americans on a government website. (AP)
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4. Opt out of inputting SSN:
Even though your SSN is requested on some forms, it is not always necessary. If a future employer is requesting your SSN, double-check why they need it. They would most likely need it to run a background check, which you should know about anyway. Additionally, some establishments allow you to provide the last 4-digits of your SSN until you are finalizing a screening process, etc.
5. Sign up for a social security account:
Go to the official Social Security Administration website to create an account. Because only one account can be created per social security number, it is safer if you claim it so no one else can by piecing together your personal information (along with your SSN) to claim it fraudulently. Make sure it is connected to a secure email account that you check frequently. This account also provides up-to-date data on earnings and benefit distributions so you can see if anything is ‘off’.
6. Combat child identity theft:
Open accounts for your children’s SSNs because you want to claim them for them early and be able to monitor any movement related to their social security number.
7. Secure documents:
Some records that contain your social security number are important to keep on hand, such as income tax filings. If they are kept digitally, encrypt and or password-protect the document or folder, especially if it is uploaded to the cloud. Keep offline documents with SSNs in a safe or shred instead of throwing them away.
Remember you (usually) only get one social security number in a lifetime, it is important to safeguard that data with your ‘life’! Tell us: How have you kept your social security number safe?
Check out the best ways to protect yourself from identity theft by heading over to CyberGuy.com and searching “How to protect yourself from identity theft” by clicking the magnifying glass at the top of my website.
How to protect yourself from identity theft (Cyberguy.com)
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In what ways will you protect your social security number moving forward? Let us know.
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