Keep Your Social Security Number Safe

Keep Your Social Security Number Safe

Identity thieves are very active right now

Countries and citizens around the world are banding together to defeat the coronavirus. While your attention is concentrated on protecting your family, friends and community, identity thieves are seeing an opportunity to swipe your confidential information.

Very few things in life create a higher degree of stress and hassle than having your Social Security Number (SSN) stolen, especially during a pandemic like we are now experiencing. This is because, unlike other forms of ID, the SSN is virtually permanent. While most instances of SSN theft are outside your control, there are some things that you can do to minimize the risk of this ever happening to you.

  • Never carry your card. Place your SSN card in a safe place. This place is NEVER your wallet or purse. Only take the card with you when you need it, then return it immediately to your designated safe place.
  • Know who needs it. As identity theft becomes more common, there are fewer people or organizations who really need to know your Social Security number. Here is a list of entities who still need your SSN:
    • The government. Federal and state governments use this number to track your earnings for retirement benefits and to ensure you pay proper taxes.
    • Your employer. The SSN is used to track your wages and withholdings. It is also used as proof of citizenship and to contribute to your Social Security and Medicare accounts.
    • Certain financial institutions. Your SSN is used by various financial institutions to prove citizenship, open bank accounts, provide loans and establish other forms of credit.
  • Know who really does not need it. Many other vendors may ask for your Social Security number, but having it is not an essential requirement. The most common requests come from health care providers and insurance companies. But the request for your number may come from anyone who wishes to collect an unpaid bill. When asked on a form for your number, leave it blank. Challenge the provider if it is requested.
  • Destroy and distort. Shred any documents that have your SSN listed. When providing copies of your tax return to anyone, distort or cover your SSN. Remember your entire SSN could appear on the top of each page of Form 1040, although that is becoming less common. If the government requests your SSN on a check payment, only place the last four digits on the check, while pre-filling the first five digits with x’s.
  • Keep your scammer alert on high. Never give out your SSN over the phone or via e-mail. Do not even confirm your SSN to someone who happens to read it back to you on the phone. If this happens to you, file a police report and report the theft to the IRS and Federal Trade Commission.
  • Proactively check for use. Periodically check your credit reports for potential use of your SSN. If suspicious activity is found, have the credit agencies place a fraud alert on your account. Remember, everyone is entitled to a free credit report once a year. Multiple businesses can provide you with your free credit report.

Replacing a stolen SSN is not only hard to do, it can create hardships. You will need to re-establish your credit history, re-assign your SSN benefits history, and realign your tax records. Your best defense is to stop the theft before it happens.

How To Protect Your Social Security Number

How To Protect Your Social Security Number

Very few things in life can create a higher degree of stress than having your Social Security Number (SSN) stolen. This is because, unlike other forms of ID, your SSN is virtually permanent. While most instances of SSN theft are outside your control, there are some things that you can do to minimize the risk of this ever happening to you.

  • Never carry your card. Place your SSN card in a safe place. That place is never your wallet or purse. Only take the card with you when you need it.
  • Know who needs it. As identity theft continues to evolve, there are fewer who really need to know your SSN. Here is that list:
    • The government. The federal and state governments use this number to keep track of your earnings for retirement benefits and to ensure you pay proper taxes.
    • Your employer. The SSN is used to keep track of your wages and withholdings. It also is used to prove citizenship and to contribute to your Social Security and Medicare accounts.
    • Certain financial institutions. Your SSN is used by various financial institutions to prove citizenship, open bank accounts, provide loans, establish other forms of credit, report your credit history or confirm your identity. In no case should you be required to confirm more than the last four digits of your number.
  • Challenge all other requests. Many other vendors may ask for your SSN but having it may not be essential. The most common requests come from health care providers and insurance companies, but requests can also come from subscription services when setting up a new account. When asked on a form for your number, leave it blank. If your supplier really needs it, they will ask you for it. This allows you to challenge their request.
  • Destroy and distort documents. Shred any documents that have your number listed. When providing copies of your tax return to anyone, distort or cover your SSN. Remember, your number is printed on the top of each page of Form 1040. If the government requests your SSN on a check payment, only place the last four digits on the check, and replace the first five digits with Xs.
  • Keep your scammer alert on high. Never give out any part of the number over the phone or via email. Do not even confirm your SSN to someone who happens to read it back to you on the phone. If this happens to you, file a police report and report the theft to the IRS and Federal Trade Commission.
  • Proactively check for use. Periodically check your credit reports for potential use of your SSN. If suspicious activity is found, have the credit agencies place a fraud alert on your account. Remember, everyone is entitled to a free credit report once a year. You can obtain yours on the Annual Credit Report website.

Replacing a stolen SSN is not only hard to do, it can create many problems. Your best defense is to stop the theft before it happens.

Watch Out for this Tax Season Scams

Watch Out for this Tax Season Scams

The IRS is warning taxpayers to keep on high alert for the next few months for tax season scams. Scammers may try to get their hands on your money or tax return by collecting your personal or financial data. According to the IRS, its employees will never:

  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying taxes you owe.
  • Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

Remember, the IRS will typically mail you a bill if you owe any taxes. It doesn’t initiate contact with people via email or texts.

Did you get your new “chip” card?

The latest credit cards have a new feature: a half-inch square on the card’s face that looks like a mini circuit board. The square is a small computer chip called an EMV. The acronym stands for Europay, MasterCard, and VISA, the developers of the technology. Over the next several years, these chip-embedded cards are expected to replace the familiar magnetic strip technology on cards that you now swipe at point-of-sale devices. When you use your EMV card, you’ll need to “dip,” or insert, it into a new type of reader.

Why the change? The new chips are expected to improve credit and debit card security. Data on cards with the older technology is much easier for crooks to steal because the information on the magnetic strip is static and can be copied. As a result, a thief can use your card for multiple fraudulent transactions. Cards with the new chip are different. Every time you use an EMV card, the chip creates a unique transaction code. As a result, the newer cards aren’t as useful to counterfeiters and card thieves.