Identity Theft: A Note About Social Security Numbers
The importance of protecting your social security number (SSN) cannot be overemphasized. With a SSN, identity thieves are able to open bank and credit card accounts in your name. A few tips to protect your SSN include:
- Do not carry your SSN card on you. Leave it in a secured, fireproof location.
- If your state lists your SSN on your driver’s license, contact your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles to request substituting an alternative number.
- Never write your SSN on checks. If your SSN is printed on your checks, properly dispose of them and get new ones immediately.
Although certain parties will require your SSN (such as your employer and financial institution for wage and tax reporting purposes), others do not need your SSN. It is critical to question any business asking for your SSN to find out if it is absolutely necessary for them to have your SSN, or if they are merely using it for general recordkeeping or identification purposes. Ask the business if it would be possible for them to use another type of identifier rather than a SSN. Be especially wary of providing businesses with your SSN over the phone and on the Internet. The Federal Trade Commission suggests asking the following questions before deciding whether you want to share your SSN:
- Why do you need my SSN?
- How will my SSN be used?
- What law requires me to give you my SSN?
- What will happen if I don’t give you my SSN?
If the business will not provide you with the services you’re seeking without providing them with your SSN, it is only your decision to move ahead and share that sensitive information with them. Do not move ahead if you do not feel comfortable. But, by attaining answers to these questions, it may help you to determine if the services validate your sharing of that sensitive information.