Having your Social Security number used by someone else doesn’t seem too likely does it? It may seem to you that this crime is pretty uncommon. It’s not.
ID Analytics, a credit fraud information service, puts that number at one in seven Americans. This includes people whose SSNs were used by strangers and those whose SSNs were appropriated by people they knew, the most common being family members. More specifically, their study found that out of 290 million Social Security numbers, 40 million are assigned to more than on individual. It also asserts that up to two million older adults unwittingly “share” their SSNs with their children.
How terrible is that that many cannot trust their own family members not to use their personal information. Sometimes it is due to a breach in the family unit, such as a divorce, but other times it is simply due to the child feeling entitled to use the parents’ information. Of course, it is sometimes the other way around, usually with a parent using an underage child’s information since the child will have a perfect credit record and the parent can begin with a clean slate.
It’s disheartening to think that you can’t share your SSN with family members, but you really shouldn’t share it with anyone unless he or she has a compelling reason to require it. For example, employers are bound by law to ask for it when they hire you for a new job. The Naples Daily News, a Florida based publication, suggests a “golden rule” for identity protection: “Think, Slow Down, and Verify.”
In addition to finding out why a person or organization is requesting the information, you should also determine where it will be stored and how it will be disposed of when it is no longer needed. Make sure you have satisfactory answers to all of these questions before you disclose the information – if you ultimately decide to do so.
Like your name, your Social Security number accompanies you for life. It has the added factor of being unique to you and used for most financial transactions. You can’t just cancel it and get a new one like you can with a credit card – so use as much caution as you possibly can.
Consider purchasing identity theft protection as an added level of security as many of them help monitor your Social Security number on legal and illegal databases and can inform you of how and when it is being used so you can verify it is you using the number or report unauthorized uses to authorities and take precautions to protect your identity.
A Social Security number is seen by identity thieves as the key to the castle so make sure you are doing all you can to protect it, especially if your one of the 40 million.