How can I protect my Social Security number from identity theft?
Your Social Security number is one of your most important personal identifiers. If identity thieves obtain your Social Security number, they can access your bank account, file false tax returns, and wreak havoc on your credit report. Here are some steps you can take to help safeguard your number.
Never carry your card with you. You should never carry your Social Security card with you unless it's absolutely necessary. The same goes for other forms of identification that may display your Social Security number (e.g., Medicare card).
Do not give out your number over the phone or via email/Internet. Oftentimes, identity thieves will pose as legitimate government organizations or financial institutions and contact you to request personal information, including your Social Security number. Avoid giving out your Social Security number to anyone over the phone or via email/Internet unless you initiate the contact with an organization or institution that you trust.
Be careful about sharing your number. Just because someone asks for your Social Security number doesn't mean you have to share it. Always ask why it is needed, how it will be used, and what the consequences will be if you refuse to provide it.
If you think someone has misused your Social Security number, contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) immediately to report the problem. The SSA can review your earnings record with you to make sure their records are correct. You can also visit the SSA website at www.ssa.gov to check your earnings record online.
Unfortunately, the SSA cannot directly resolve any identity theft problems created by the misuse of your Social Security number. If you discover that someone is illegally using your number, be sure to contact the appropriate law-enforcement authorities. In addition, consider filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and submitting IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit, with the Internal Revenue Service. Visit www.ftc.gov and www.irs.gov for more information.