Identity theft is a big problem these days. Security breaches at major companies highlight just how easily others may be able to obtain a range of personal information. Although we often think of identity theft related to banking information or credit cards, it can go far beyond that. Your social security identity can be at risk too. Whether you are currently collecting social security or plan to do so many years into the future, you can actually take steps at protecting yourself from social security identity theft now.
Claiming Your Social Security Account
The first thing that you can do to protect your social security account is to claim it online. We all have the ability to create an account online that links to our social security number. Doing so allows you to see the information tied to your account. Most importantly, it prevents someone else from falsely creating an account for you.
If you are close to collecting social security benefits, it’s critical that you log in to your account regularly to review the information. What address is listed for you? What bank account is set for direct deposits? Incorrect information is a sign that someone may have contacted social security (perhaps via phone) to change your information in an attempt to collect your benefits!
Report Suspicious Activity
If you do detect an unauthorized change in your account, contact the Social Security Administration to report it. You may also want to contact the Federal Trade Commission. Both federal agencies will want to know about such activity.
Avoid Providing Information via Phone
Phone scams are one way that scammers can obtain your personal information. By pretending to be someone they are not, they can trick you into providing your birthdate, social security number, etc. They will then attempt to steal your benefits by contacting the social security administration and pretending to be you. They can change where checks are mailed or funds are deposited. As a matter of practice and precaution, never provide personal information to anyone who calls you. The Social Security Administration would always contact you by mail anyway, and not phone, should they require any information from you.
Protecting yourself from social security identity theft starts with being protective of your personal information to begin with and not giving it out to just anyone. Additionally, by using the online tools provided, you can better monitor your account and minimize the potential of social security identity theft.