According to the Social Security Administration, Social Security numbers (SSNs) were originally created in 1936 simply as an account number to track income so that participants could receive their Social Security retirement benefits when the time came. Since that time, use of the number has expanded to become a required form of identification in nearly every aspect of our lives. Although beneficial in many respects, this leads to some obvious security concerns. An identity thief could do any of the following with access to someone’s social security number in combination with the right information:
Open financial accounts
Obtain services such as cable, internet, or phone
Apply for loans or credit cards
Undergo medical procedures using someone else’s health insurance
Apply for jobs
File income taxes for someone else’s refund
Protecting your SSN
As you can see, your Social Security number is an incredibly valuable piece of information and should be treated accordingly. For this reason, it is highly discouraged to carry a Social Security card or anything with the number on it in a wallet or purse. These documents should be locked up at home or in a safe place. Over half of all identity theft is committed by someone who personally knows the victim. This includes friends, coworkers, and even family in some circumstances. It is important to know who has access to this information.
Know when to provide it
It makes sense to provide a SSN to a new employer, financial institution, or at a hospital. If it doesn’t make sense why someone is asking for the number, ask questions. You always have the right to say no when asked to provide the number. If you do provide the number, give it quietly or write it down rather than saying it out loud. It’s important to be aware of your surroundings when giving this information.
Never give out your SSN when asked by phone or email
If you receive an email or phone call asking for your Social Security number, do not give it out. If it makes sense that the company or person asking for it might need it, look up their contact information on the internet and contact them yourself to provide that information. If you receive a call or email, you never know if you’re actually speaking to the company or person they claim to be. You will feel more at ease if you contact them yourself.