Criminals are being more creative in how they are tricking people into giving up personal information – especially your social security number (SSN). Maybe it’s a hunch, or you may have received some information that makes you think your social security number has been hacked. Either way, there is no easy way to click and see if your SSN is on the black market being used for ill intent. Instead, it will take some research on your side to see if it is being utilized by someone else.
Take Your Card Out Of Your Wallet
If you’re reading this article and your social security card is in your wallet or purse – take it out and put it in the same place in your home. Leaving it in your wallet is a dangerous move and an effortless way for thieves to get their hands on your personal information. You will need to take your social security card with you in sporadic cases, such as filing HR paperwork at your new job or setting up your insurance. The fewer times that you show people your SSN, the better. Other steps to protect your identity are:
- Shred your paperwork – You may receive mail or paperwork with your social security number on it. Take the extra effort to shred that paperwork instead of just placing it in the mail. Criminals love to dumpster dive, so do not assume that your SSN will stay safe in a trash bag.
- Storing Your Card Properly – Use a safe within your home or, at the least, a fireproof deposit box to keep your social security card and other essential documents in a secure location.
- Paperless Bills and E-Statements – Move your bills and banking online can help curb criminals from grabbing your information via a hardcopy bill or bank statement.
Once Hackers Have Your SSN
It’s important to note that protecting your personal information, especially your social security number, is critical. This piece of information opens the door to many financial documents such as credit cards, loans, health insurance, utilities and services, and possibly your tax refund if criminals have your SSN.
At first, you may not realize that you are the victim of identity theft. Some warning signs could be refusal from other companies to open additional lines of credit or receiving the following:
- Bills for merchandise, homes, or products you did not buy
- Calls from debt collectors for credit or medical accounts you did not open.
- Create my Social Security account with the Social Security Administration. This account helps you see if you’ve had any suspicious activities while tracking your personal record.
Types of Scams
Unfortunately, scams do work because thieves are good at these tactics and, frankly – have had a lot of practice in social security identity theft.
Imposter Government Robo Calls
There is an ongoing scam in which you may receive a phone call with someone in personating a government employee asking for your Social Security number. Or the caller asks you to re-activate your Social Security number. Even the most intelligent people get swept up in these types of calls thinking that there’s something wrong with their account. The first step is to pause and not react as a government agency will rarely use a 1-888 phone number.
Remember, you should never have to verify your Social Security number with any agency that contacts you unsolicited. If you receive one of these calls and simply hang up the phone. The problem is legit, the agency may send you a letter in the mail or they won’t because it was indeed a true scam.
A popular technique used to lure people into providing personal information by clicking a link. This can be done very quickly by changing one letter in an email address from a company you rely on or conduct financial business with on a daily basis. For example, your lawyer, your accountant, your bank, are amongst a growing list of companies that hackers look to when mimicking email correspondence. Make it a personal rule not to click on any links from these emails without verifying the actual email address. To get rid of them, simply delete them. Also, if you notice that the emails from these groups become threatening and urgent when it comes to money, pick up the phone and call their office.
Think Someone Is Using Your Identity?
The Federal Trading Commission (FTC) offers a few tips on what to be on the lookout for if you feel that your identity has been compromised.
- Withdrawals or purchases on your bank statements that you did not conduct
- Debt collectors calling for accounts that you didn’t initiate
- Odd transactions or changes on your credit report
- Your regular mail changes or stops
- Medical bills for procedures or visits that you did not schedule
Check Your Credit Report
Federal law mandates that everyone receives a free annual credit report from the three major credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. If you live in Georgia, Maine, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Jersey, you can request an additional free credit report from the three major credit bureaus. Just like visiting the doctor for a yearly visit, you need to check in on your credit annually. If a crook opens a credit card in your name, it will show up on your report.
Freeze your credit
This is a free tool that you can use to ensure that hackers don’t access your personal information. Freezing it for a few months or years can ensure that your identity isn’t being used for other things by other people.
Hire An Identity Protection Service
Hiring an identity protection service such as OneRep can ensure that your information is safe on the dark web. They can monitor a variety of your personal accounts and credit reports. Think of them as an insurance policy that will help with the legal fees if you become a victim of identity fraud.
IRS Identity Protection Pin
Protect your IRS tax return by securing your own IRS identity protection pin. There is a growing trend of criminals stealing Social Security numbers to file tax returns around tax season. Thieves will do this so they, not you, receive your refund in cash. To avoid this issue happening to you, hire a legitimate tax preparer, such as an accountant, to manage your taxes. Taking the time to go through the proper process will save you heartache and money in the long run.
Every year, fraudsters are getting more aggressive in getting others’ personal information. Even if you are adept at spotting a scam, you must continually educate yourself on keeping your information safe and secure.