Keeping Social Security Numbers Safe

There are some things that we share with others, and there are others that we keep private. For example, we might be willing to tell people where we were born. However, we might not be fine with revealing when we were born.

There are some things, on the other hand, that are in a different category. Not only would we be unwilling to share such information, but we need to be very careful if we actually do share it.

One such item is a social security number.

As many of us know, thieves can use social security numbers for identity theft. There are plenty of ways these crooks can wreak havoc with your finances and personal life, and none of them are pleasant.

Examples of such dastardly deeds include:

  • Draining your bank and brokerage accounts
  • Accessing your credit card accounts
  • Opening new accounts in your name
  • Obtaining employment with your identity

Clearly, it’s in one’s best interest to protect his or her social security number. While it’s wise to employ smart social security strategies, nobody wants to deal with identity theft. If we haven’t dealt with identity theft ourselves, we almost certainly have known someone who has been impacted by it.

From my experience, the individuals who have told me about their situations have relayed 3 common themes:

  • They couldn’t immediately identify how their information was compromised
  • It was real pain to get everything sorted out
  • It took a long time to get things straightened out and resolved.

I don’t want to have to deal with that kind of a nightmare. Nobody does.

Here are some strategies I have used to avoid such issues:

  • Don’t carry the card. It’s in a safe place. Not going to announce exactly where:) Even on my first day of employment, when I was required to provide my number, I didn’t have have it with me – out of habit. Again, unless absolutely necessary, I’m not keeping it on my person.
  • Check credit reports. It’s a way to identify if there has been any funny business occurring
  • Don’t write SS# on checks or other distributed documents. If something is going to be passing through multiple channels, in front of many eyes, I want to be careful. There are other ways to identify someone than a SS#, I would think.
  • Don’t enter SS# online. I don’t enter this information online. Period. Don’t see why it needs to be entered.
  • Avoid using SS# as a part of a password. This one should be easy, but folks use all kinds of personal information within their passwords. I don’t want to give any information that could be “reverse engineered” through matching with other information, to obtain my number in a backhanded way.
  • Push back when people ask for my SS#.  This is one where I have been more vigilant of late. When asked, I just don’t provide it. If someone pushes back, I resist. It’s remarkable how some things are just requested, without apparent regard for the recipient’s privacy. Often, if you just say no, people will listen.

Ultimately, my approach is to avoid giving my number to anyone unless they can convince me why they need it.

I have heard enough stories about identity theft that I don’t want to allow the bad guys one additional – and very important – vehicle to cause harm.

I’m sure there are many other risks, as well as other ways to protect oneself. Please do share if you feel inclined to do so, as it could help someone prevent such issues.

Additionally, have you or anyone else been the victim of social security/identity theft? How did it happen and how was it resolved?


  1. says

    Good advice.

    Two things work against keeping your SS number private:

    1. Too many companies and agencies use Social Security numbers as ID numbers. At the outset of Social Security, this was explicitly against the law, because many Americans objected to the idea of a national ID number, which was redolent of the tyrannies we fought during World War II.

    2. If you’re on Medicare, you’re required to carry your Medicare card around with you. It has your SS number printed right on the front. Every time you go into a doctor’s office, and urgent care facility, or a hospital and every time you present your card to cover a flu shot (covered by Medicare Part B), you reveal your SS number to a whole slew of people. It only takes one bad apple among all those folks to do you a lot of harm.

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