Identity theft is on the rise in America, and the most valuable piece of personal information to an identity thief is your social security number. This is unfortunate, because social security numbers were not originally intended to be used as identifiers, so it comes as no surprise that they are so easily compromised. They were made to help track how much money people made and to figure out benefit levels – nothing more. Once a social security number has been compromised, it is a simple thing to use it over and over again. The card isn’t even necessary – we all know that we are not supposed to carry the card – so banks and hospitals and other companies just ask you to give them the numbers making social security identity theft simple for criminals.
There are things that you can do to reduce the risk that your number will be compromised:
- Don’t carry your social security card in your wallet. Keep it at home and under lock and key.
- Only give the numbers away when absolutely necessary. Ask what they are going to use them for and if anther number will work instead.
- Shred any documents or papers that have the number on them.
Unfortunately, there will be times when you do have to give your social security number away, so you will always be at risk for social security number identity theft. Statistics on how many social security numbers have already been compromised vary greatly – but one thing is certain: the number is alarmingly large. There is a good chance that you have already received notification from a company informing you of a data breach that included your social security number, but even if you have not, you should be on guard. The destruction that can be caused by social security number identity theft can be lasting and very difficult to clean up. The most important step in detecting social security number identity theft is monitoring your credit report. When someone uses your social security number to open a new credit account, it will show up on your report, and the sooner you know about the theft and dispute the fraud, the better.