- Personal Finance»
How to Safeguard Your Social Security Number from Identity Thieves in today's world
Your SSN Card
Authorized Uses of the Social Security Number
The Social Security Number (SSN) system was originally created to record the earnings and social security deductions from paychecks of individuals who earned a salary or income and for no other reason.
That record keeping process was done through the SSN for the entire working life of the individual and when they took their retirement from the workforce the SSN was used to track how much in social payments he received from the government.
But after many years of the government compiling these SSN's into a database of information for social security purposes it then began to take on a life far mor reaching than the creators of this system ever imagined.
United States law requires that banks who pay you interes must request your SSN to be able to report that income you earn to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in order for you to then pay tax on those earnings. And the government uses your SSN to reprot social security payments to you in times of unemployment, and when you retire to know how much pension to pay you, that is based on your lifetime earnings.
No other entity, organization, or person is authorized to ask for your SSN to conduct their business with you if it does not involve banking (the reporting of interes), or for social security purposes, like paymment of unemployment insurance benefis, or retirement pensions. But most organizations who we deal with on a daily basis routinely ask for our SSN, and we routinely provide it to them without thinking when requesting a credit card, or when we complete any other document we may encounter. They do not have a right to ask for your SSN, so do not provide it to them. If you have already done this in the past, then your credit report is populated with your SSN and any creditor who you authorize to undertake a credit check on you will be able to obtain your SSN instantly!
If the person obtaining your credit report finds your SSN in it, they may be able to steal your identity as they have the main piece of financial and personal information about you and can readily proceed to create an identity for themselves with you as the victim.
Under the Privacy Act of 1974 only authorized persons or institutions with whom you transact business requiring the reporting of income earned or the payment of interest made to you have the right to request your SSN, and you are obligated to provide it under law. Any other party requesting your SSN for non-government or non-IRS business matters do not have the right to request it and you have the right to refuse to provide it. If they refuse you service, you can file a complaint against them with the Federal Government and the Better Business Bureau. All rental companies request the provision of the SSN when applying for a lease on a rental property, but you are not obligated to provide it and can refuse to do so without any repercussions against you.
If you have provided your SSN in the past to any person, or organization other than a bank or the IRS, chances are that it is now listed on your credit report where anyone else can retrieve it, and that increases your chances of becomng a victim of identity theft.
If you have provided your SSN to any creditor or to a Credit Bureau you can easily correct this situation by simply writing a letter to your Credit Bureau and instruct them to review your Credit Report and remove any and all instances where your SSN is contained in the report. You can't eliminate any record of it in previous copies of your report obtained by creditors that are floating around up to that point in time, but you can eliminate any further refernce to it from that point on. Get a copy of your Credit Report, check it for inclusion of your SSN, and have all traces of it removed immediately.
Understand also that any future transactions on your part with any other party should not include the divulgation of your SSN for any unauthorized purpose.
Fraudsters routinely try to identify the SSN of individuals and then to steal their identity. Revealing your SSN voluntarilly to organizations who have no right to ask for it only makes the job of fraudsters that much easier to steal your identity and to make a victim of you.
How to Protect Your Social Security Number
1. Never carry your SSN card with you.
2. Keep it in a safe place at home, or in a safety deposit box.
3. Regularly request a copy of your Credit Report (once evey 12 months) to ensure that it is an "SSN-free" report.
4. Never disclose your SSN to credit card companies, leasing companies, hotels, insurance companies, or any non-approved organization who has no right to ask for it.
5. Always question any organization that demands your SSN why they are seeking it, and inform them that they have no right to request it, and you are not obligated to disclose it.
6. Never write your SSN on any check you write, or any document you complete, even if you are being asked for it.
7. If you suspect that your SSN has been compromised, write to the Credit Bureau to inform them of that suspcicion and to request a notification if any one requests a copy of your Credit Report. Also inform your bank, the IRS and any financial institution who legitimately has your SSN that it has been compromised. In rare circumstances you may also have to notify your local police force in order to minimize any damages to you and your identity.
8. Notify the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that your SSN may have been compromised.
By taking pro-active steps to safeguard your sSN and card you will eliminate any temptation on the part of fraudsters who may have you in their sights as a "mark" and be after your identity.