How to Keep Your Social Security Number Safe
Our social security numbers (SSN) should be among our most well-guarded secrets. Even though it was originally meant to be used for social security purposes only SSN has become the primary national identification number for taxation for all intents and purposes. Losing our numbers can be extremely dangerous. Malicious people can open credit lines in our names and even our children's names if they get a hold of their SSN.
Obviously, it should go without saying that you should NEVER share your social security number without anyone else, not even friends, but what if you have to? For example, when starting a new job your boss will request your SSN, or when opening a bank account, or applying for a loan.
However, just because you've been asked for your social security number doesn't mean you're obligated to give it out. As I mentioned before, giving it out freely can result in some serious problems, not the least of which is identity theft. You don't want anyone tanking your credit score, trust me. It could make applying for loans in the future almost impossible.
How do we protect our ID and prevent our social security numbers from falling into the wrong hands? Well, here are 5 tips to keep your SSN and your identity safe.
Make sure they really have a right to ask for your social security number.
Before everything else, inquire why the person asking for your SSN wants it. There are some legitimate reasons why someone might need your number, like your future employer or a bank making a credit history check. Signing long-term contracts with companies is another example, they'll need to check your credit history too. That doesn't mean you should give it away freely. Always hold your SSN back unless you have no other choice.
Don't send your social security number by email.
This is a scam as old as the internet. Thieves often send out emails masquerading as your bank or credit card issuer. They'll claim that they need your social security number to update your profile and user credentials. Sometimes they may even call you on the phone to further the ruse. Don't fall for it. Real banks will NEVER ask for your SSN by email.
Don't say your number verbally in front of strangers.
You never know who's listening to your conversations. When you're required to give your SSN in public (like in the bank for example) don't say it loudly. In fact, don't say it at all. Try to find some alternative way to deliver it to the other person. Write it down on a piece of paper or type it on your phone and show it to the clerk.
Always offer an alternative to your social security number.
Sometimes you may be asked for your social security number to identify your account. It may seem like an innocent enough reason, but avoid it if you can. Use your account number if you know it. If you don't then try with your name, address or phone number. There are numerous alternatives.
Keep an eye on your credit score.
Even if you're super careful there are still no guarantees that your SSN won't fall into the wrong hands. Even if you don't give out your social security number identity thieves can acquire it by other means. For example, a hacker can breach the database of your bank steal a bunch of user data, including your SSN. Check your credit history from time to time. If you spot any unusual activities, report them to the authorities immediately. Better to be safe than sorry.