How To Protect Yourself From Social Security Number Identity Theft

The number of people who have fallen prey to Social Security number (SSN) identity theft has increased significantly over the years, making it a concerning issue. According to research, around 51,600 victims collectively lost $517 million to scammers in 2021. For many people, their SSNs are already exposed, along with other personal info. Shockingly, these intruders can offer your records for as little as a cup of coffee and a bagel. But don’t worry; you can do a few things to shield your SSN as much as possible while getting savvy about its use. So, here are some practical tips to help you out. 

  • Shred any documents with your SSN 

When it’s time to toss out paperwork with your social security number or other personal info, it’s advisable to shred it first. You would be safer when you pay special attention to stuff like paystubs, bank statements, loan documents, and IRS forms like W-2s. These little pieces of paper might reveal your whole SSN, making it essential to discard them properly to keep the information from falling into the wrong hands. 

  • Keep your social security card safe

It’s vital to safeguard your social security card and remember where you keep it. If possible, commit the details to memory and store the card securely so you don’t always have to carry it around. Avoid giving out your SSN in public or around people you know little about or don’t fully trust. Always ask why someone needs it and how they’ll use it before giving it out. It’s worth noting that giving out your social security information is not always necessary. For instance, some medical offices can skip the SSN if you provide your insurance ID. And even if a potential employer wants it, demand to know why. A background check might be the only legitimate reason. 

Also, consider using an EID (Tax ID) to keep your SSN hidden when engaging in business activities, like invoicing or contracts. You can read more on how to apply for a tax ID number to help you get started.

  • Be vigilant against scams and fraud

If you get unsolicited messages, do a quick fact-check before handing out any information or clicking on suspicious links. Scammers pretend they have your best interest, sending you messages about problems with your accounts or claiming you’ve hit the jackpot with a government refund. But watch out for sketchy spelling and grammar, and always be skeptical of so-called “government agents,” especially from the IRS. 

  • Guard your kids’ social security information

Kids might not apply for credit until they’re grown-ups, meaning fraud involving their SSNs can fly under the radar for years. Keep a close watch on those little social security numbers. This way, you prevent situations like your child applying for their first credit card only to find out they already have existing transactions such as a mortgage in their name. 

Social security number identity theft can catch anyone off guard, no matter how cautious you are. And let’s face it, many don’t know what to do if they fall victim to this headache-inducing mess. But having learned a few ways to shield yourself, you’ll be ready to keep your information safe and ward off scammers.