Identity Under Wraps: How to Avoid Social Security Identity Theft

Business.com / Technology / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

The bottom line is that whatever you do, try to keep your number from being exposed if at all possible.

Identify theft is a problem faced by many individuals all over the world.

However, there are many steps that you can take to avoid this problem.

Some of them involve simple things that help keep your number out of the wrong hands and some of them are a little more complex.

There are several situations that absolutely require your social security number; however, there are also many business that do not absolutely have to have this information, so it is important that you realize just what the difference is. Generally speaking, if an organization is dealing with money in a way that would need to be reported to the IRS, then this type of situation requires giving them your number.

However, there are lots of other times when different entities will request that you give them your SSN. In these types of situations, it is usually best to not provide it to them.

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It is imperative to realize that your social security number is a magical gateway that knowledgeable thieves can use to take over your financial kingdom. The amount of damage that is done to people all over the world is a figure that is estimated to be in the billions of dollars every year; however, no one knows for sure, and it could be much larger than that.

However, there are several things that you can do in order to minimize the possibility that your social security number will be used to steal your identity:

Do Not Show Your SSN When You Place a Paper Record on a Public Bulletin Board

When you place your social security number on a piece of paper, you are drastically increasing the risk that someone will be able to use it for bad things. By taking this piece of paper and then boldly displaying it in a public place, you are almost asking a thief to rip you off.

Do Not Send Your SSN in Any Kind of Electronic Transaction

The ability of a skilled hacker is amazing. Many of them can do things that most people never were thought possible. This is why you should almost never use your social security number in any sort of electronic transaction. Even when dealing directly with the IRS, you need to be extremely cautious about this matter because it only takes one thief with the right equipment to make your life extremely complicated and drain your bank account with only a few keystrokes.

Do Not Use Your SSN to Log-In

Most log-in systems will allow for you to enter another form of identification in order for you to prove that you are who you say you are. By entering your SSN on a log-in system, you open up a multitude of doors into your house of money. Hackers all over the globe might be able to grab this information online, and a person standing behind you might be able to see the sequence of keys that you pressed. That's why you should always use an alternative form of identification when logging into any kind of system.

Do Not Allow Your SSN to Be Used on an ID Card

This situation is becoming less of a problem because many different institutions that used to display an individual's SSN on their identity cards are now discontinuing this practice. This is a very good thing and will most definitely prevent more people from having their identities stolen. However, if there is an organization that wants to do this with your number, then you need to do what it takes in order to make sure that this does not happen.

Do Not Mail a Postcard With Your SSN on It

Although you may have to send a tax form in the mail that has your SSN on it, it is in an envelope and will not be visible unless it is handled by a corrupt employee of the post office or if the envelope is stolen from the mail. However, the information on a postcard can often seen by many people. That's why you should never place this sensitive information in a location where it may be accessed by a lot of people.

Do Not Store Your SSN on Any Kind of Computer

It does not matter how much protection your computer has; you should never store your SSN on any type of computer or smartphone. There are just too many things that can go wrong. First of all, every time that you go online, you are vulnerable to identity theft if this information is stolen with one of the many techniques used by online predators that stalk the dark regions of the internet. In addition, if your computer is ever stolen, then you are even more at risk that the thief will be able to locate this information.

That is why it especially important for your to never place your SSN on any type of electronic device, especially a computer or smartphone. The risks are simply just too great. Any electronic device is just too vulnerable in a large variety ways to even think about doing this, so don't ever do it.

Do Not Store Your SSN in the Cloud

This is every bit as risky as placing your SSN on a computer or other similar type of electronic device. However, in some ways it is even more dangerous because many of the hackers have unlimited time and access with many of the locations in the cloud. At least with your computer, the thieves in cyberspace cannot touch your information if you are not online. However, this is not the case with the cloud, and they have an almost unlimited amount of time to figure out how to break into the area of cyberspace where your SSN is being stored. 

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Do Not Carry Your SSN Card on Your Person

If your wallet or purse gets stolen, your identity could also be stolen if your SSN card is in there. This is why you should never carry it around with you. There is simply no need to ever do this. Having this type of information on an actual piece of paper increases the odds dramatically that you might eventually be a victim of identity theft if you are mugged or if your wallet is accidentally forgotten on a table in a restaurant.

Place Your SSN Card in a Secure Location

Your physical SSN card needs to be stored in a place that has a maximum amount of safety. A safe or other similar device is probably one the best places where this item can be stored. However, it is also important that the safe is in an area that is well hidden so that an intruder skilled at opening these kinds of devices will not be able to steal the contents inside your safe as easily.

Protect Yourself

There are also many businesses out there who will be able to reduce the risk of your identity being stolen. That's why you should get identity theft protection if you really would like to minimize the chances that your identity will be stolen.

Oftentimes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This is especially true when it comes to having your identity stolen, because trying to repair the damage caused when this sort of crime occurs is a major hassle and can cost you an enormous amount of money.

Determine Who Actually Needs Your SSN

There are certain entities that absolutely must have your social security number in order to be in compliance with the various rules and regulations of the IRS. In these few situations, you are required by law to provide your SSN. This is because it is your tax identification number and is a vital part of the process that makes sure that the systems in place are able to correctly identify everyone.

The following list includes most of the situations where your SSN is absolutely necessary for tax purposes:

  • Banks
  • Employers
  • Internal Revenue Service
  • U.S. Treasury
  • Certain government programs

Organizations That Do Not Need Your Number

However, there are many instances where your number is not needed at all. This is when you should ALWAYS refuse to provide this information. Many businesses will ask for this information and use it to identify you because it is a number that is unique to you. This makes their jobs much easier; however, it increases the possibility that your SSN might fall into the wrong hands. Therefore, it NEVER a good idea to give your SSN to any organization that does not have to have it.

There are many kinds of entities that will ask for your SSN but do not need it. These types of organizations include—but are not limited to—the following:

  • Utility companies
  • Schools
  • Sports leagues
  • Landlords
  • Property managers
  • Insurance organizations
  • Hospitals
  • Doctors

Therefore, when you are asked to give your SSN to these types of organizations, you should always remember that this increases your risk of having your identity stolen.

Just Say No

That is why it is so vitally important to realize that you always have the ability to say no. In fact, it is your duty as a responsible person taking care of yourself and loved ones to always say no to all of the various places that ask for your SSN. This piece of information is just too precious to give to anyone unless it is needed for official tax purposes.

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Remember, that many places will ask for this number on a form or will have one of their employees ask you for this information. They do this because many people are unaware and simply comply with their demands. If more individuals all over the world were more protective of their SSNs, then identity theft would not be quite as common as it is now.

Therefore, you need to take all of the right steps and be properly protected so that you can rest more comfortably at night knowing that your identity is safe and secure.

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