Identify theft via Social Security numbers is a huge, and continuously growing, problem. Here, Jeff Scholnick provides steps to take to prevent yourself from becoming a victim of Social Security fraud.
Social Security theft and fraud can destroy a person’s life, causing lost income, ruined credit, and serious stress and frustration. There are, however, many ways to both detect and prevent Social Security theft and fraud. Here are a few of the major ones.
Protect Physical Documents
Do not carry your Social Security card in your wallet, purse, or on your person—secure it in a safe place at home instead. Collect your mail promptly to prevent identify thieves from taking your mail and stealing your personal information. Always shred documents that contain personal information.
Secure Online Data
Weak passwords are one of the easiest ways for hackers and identity thieves to steal information. Create strong, complex, unique passwords for each of your online accounts. Do not save them on your computer or in your phone: if you are afraid of forgetting them, write them down and keep them in a secured place in your home. Many sites use two-step verification systems, which go a step further to secure your accounts—employ these wherever possible.
Use software that keeps viruses and spyware at bay, and update it whenever necessary. Also, do not give away your Social Security number, especially online or over the phone. Always ask why it is necessary, how it will be used and secured, and if an alternative can be implemented. Also ask for the name and phone number of the caller. Then research and verify the caller’s information. Make sure you are fully confident in the caller’s authenticity before you call back. Still do not give any sensitive information over the phone or online.
Watch Your Accounts
With the prevalence of automatic billing and online bank statements, many do not regularly check on their accounts the way they may once have. If possible sign up for your bank to send you account alerts, which will notify you when transactions and transfers are occurring on your account. If you notice suspicious activities, alert your bank immediately, so they can freeze the account and beginning repairing the damage.
Regularly checking your credit report is another vital step to protecting your identity. Sites like Credit Karma and Annual Credit Report allow people to view their credit scores from three major agencies. This will allow you to ensure that lines of credit have not been opened under your name and Social Security number that you did not authorize. You may be able to get free credit reporting from the charge cards you already have.
Identity Protection Services
For those who are extremely concerned, or for those with many assets to protect, identity protection services can be a great way to maintain peace of mind. For a monthly rate, they will watch your accounts, send alerts for suspect activity, and assist in resolving any problems that arise should your identity be stolen. Many banks and credit unions also have identity protection services; ask yours to see if they have one, and how you could apply if they do.
By being cautious and making smart, preventative choices, you can rest assured that you will not fall prey to those who wish to steal your Social Security number. At Scholnick Law, we are dedicated to helping our clients with their Social Security concerns. If you have any questions, or would like a free consultation, contact us today!