Social Security is a government program in the US that provides financial assistance to qualified people. It’s also known as the Old-Age, Survivor, Disability Insurance (OASDI) program and is facilitated by the Social Security Administration (SSA), a federal agency.
While it’s popular for its retirement benefits, Social Security also pays benefits to survivors and disabled workers, as well as their children and spouses.
When you apply for Social Security, you’ll be given a nine-digit number. This is called a Social Security Number (SSN), and it’s issued to all US citizens and eligible residents who request one. It’s used to track and monitor the status of your lifetime earnings and work years.
When you need to file a claim for retirement benefits or disability income, the SSA will use your SSN to check your contributions. From there, they’ll be able to determine if you’re eligible and calculate your claims.
Aside from Social Security benefits, SSN has other essential purposes. These include opening a bank account, applying for loans, obtaining private insurance, buying property, etc. Therefore, you should keep your SSN safe from anyone, especially those who might use it for fraud.
Why Should You Protect Your SSN?
One solid reason why it’s crucial to protect your SSN is to prevent identity theft. It’s a case when a dishonest person makes a transaction under your name using any information your SSN may provide. Here are some possible ways that would allow them to access your SSN:
- Online Shopping
Today, almost everything can be purchased through internet-powered platforms, such as social media sites and e-commerce. That’s why identity thieves are more prevalent than ever.
Fraudsters will use all the tricks in their arsenal to make you spill your SSN. Don’t let them trick you into giving away this number, not even the last four digits. So, if someone asks for your SSN, end the conversation immediately, unless they’re a government agency or other reliable financial institution.
- Social Security Card Theft
If they can’t make you spill the beans, they’ll try to take it by force. They may steal your Social Security card containing all the details they need. So, it’s important to bring it only when you need to use it. Otherwise, keep it safe and secure at home.
Also, if you lose your card, you might be wondering if you could request a temporary social security card replacement right away. To apply for a replacement, you need to submit the completed Form SS-5 to your local Social Security office together with other requirements, all of which must be original copies.
After you submit your documents, you’ll be provided with a receipt. This means that your request is being processed, and you can use it as a temporary Social Security card while waiting for a new one to be delivered.
Once identity thieves have your SSN, they can initiate financial transactions in your name without you even knowing, such as:
- Opening A Bank Account: They’ll use your SSN to open a new bank account under your name and try to transfer your savings from other banks to the new account. This will enable them to access it without your consent and approval.
- Credit Cards: Fraudsters can use your SSN to apply for a new credit card under your name. You’ll never know until the bank demands payment for products you never purchased and your credit score gets damaged.
- Loans: Fraudsters may apply for loans using your SSN. Also, you may never find out about this until a lender demands payment for loans.
What Are The Ways To Keep Your SSN Protected?
Now that you understand the importance of securing your SSN, it’s time for you to learn essential tips to keep your SSN protected against illegal activities.
- Present An Alternative ID
If a company asks for your SSN to facilitate your request, it’d be safer to offer alternative forms of identification instead. You may offer other valid IDs, such as your driver’s license, and passport. In addition, you may provide your student ID from the university if you’re currently studying.
- Ask Them Why They Want Your SSN
If such businesses still insist, don’t hesitate to ask questions such as:
- Why is it necessary to ask for my SSN?
- Whom will you share my SSN with once I give it to you?
- How will you keep my data and other sensitive information private?
- Will you compensate me for my loss if my SSN has been compromised and used fraudulently?
Remember, there’s nothing wrong with asking questions. It’s your right to know why they need your SSN and how it’ll be handled.
- Leave Your Social Security Card At Home
As mentioned earlier, it’s better to leave your card at home than to always bring it with you. This will keep you from losing your card, reducing the likelihood of other people using it to engage in fraudulent activities.
Only bring it with you if you plan to make transactions with established institutions and businesses.
- Destroy Files And Documents With Your Personal Details
Do you believe in the saying that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure? Well, you should because your old files and documents are sparkling diamonds in the eyes of identity thieves.
Instead of throwing them out in your trash bins, destroy your old paper documents with confidential information. You may use a paper shredder, tear them manually, or burn them to leave no trace behind. By doing so, you’ll be able to protect your data and prevent anyone from getting ahold of it.
Also, empty your mailbox promptly to prevent criminals from stealing your mail. They can use the information they find in your mailbox to carry out their criminal activities.
Protecting your Social Security Number should be one of your top priorities. It would be a costly mistake to be careless with your Social Security card or give out your SSN to anyone who asks. It’s wise to follow the tips discussed above to secure your SSN. By protecting your SSN, you can avoid falling prey to identity theft and other fraudulent schemes.