Protecting Your Social Security Number: A Guide for Teens

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Your Social Security Number, or SSN for short, is a nine-digit number that is issued to all United States citizens by the Social Security Administration.  When your SSN is protected and kept private, it can provide you with a wealth of government benefits in the future, namely a supplement to your retirement.  But when your SSN is compromised, stolen, or misused, it can cause mountains of trouble that can leave your credit ruined and your life in a mess.

Few things in this world can cause as much damage to someone’s personal life as a stolen Social Security Number.  That’s why it’s important for you to protect your SSN at all times.  Scammers and thieves are constantly drumming up new ways to obtain Social Security Numbers, while legitimate government entities are working to provide the right people with the right services.  Let’s look at some basic social security dos and don’ts in today’s world.

1)        DO give your Social Security Number to entities that legitimately require it.  These include the Social Security Administration, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), government-funded programs like worker’s compensation, employers, banks and lenders.  These government entities need your SSN to apply benefits and credits to your government subsidies or loans correctly, while banks, lenders and employers need your Social Security Number to comply with government regulations.

DO NOT give your Social Security Number out to just anyone that asks.  Some entities may want it, but it doesn’t mean that they really need it.  These entities may include doctors’ offices, car dealerships, insurance companies and landlords.  Sometimes people that you do business with want your SSN as a way to keep track of you should you default on a loan or debt, but it isn’t something that they have to have.  The main thing to remember is that you don’t have to give your number out to businesses like the aforementioned, but keep in mind that they have the right to deny you services if you don’t comply with their policies.

2)        DO ask how the business plans on protecting your Social Security Number.  You may even go a step further and ask to see a copy of the business’s privacy policy, which should state their rules and regulations about the usage of private customer information.  When it comes to your SSN, you have every right to know what they plan on doing with it.

DO NOT give out your SSN to a business that cannot clearly explain why they need it.  This is especially important if the business that you’re dealing with can’t even supply you with a privacy policy.  If the person you’re talking to disregards your legitimate questions and concerns about your SSN, then they’ll probably disregard your privacy as well.  Sometimes it’s best to just walk away.

3)        DO stay proactive every single time that you’re asked for your Social Security Number.  For example, if you get a call out of the blue from a person that is claiming to be with a utility company and the person states that he or she needs your SSN, then politely thank them for the call and hang up.  Many scammers will try to catch potential victims off-guard by calling people and threatening immediate action or else… beware of such callers.

 DO NOT give your SSN out to just anyone that asks.  This includes emails, letters in the mail, and over the phone.  It’s also important to keep in mind that just because an email looks official doesn’t mean that it is.  Many scammers have gotten pretty clever when it comes to disguising an email that is phishing for your SSN as a legitimate bank or government correspondence.  When in doubt, just hit the “delete” key and contact the entity using verified contact information through their official website.

 

We can’t completely protect our Social Security Numbers from identity theft; unfortunately we’re all at risk.  But there are steps that we can take to make it as difficult as possible for scammers and thieves to abuse the very numbers that we work so hard to keep safe.  It’s important to remember that most thieves are like water: they travel along the path of least resistance.  Thieves that steal Social Security Numbers regularly look for easy targets, like people that respond to phishing emails and those that will give out their SSN over the phone in a matter of minutes.  Just remember to remain vigilant while exercising a healthy sense of skepticism when dealing with people that ask for your Social Security Number, and you’ll be doing the best you can to ensure that your number remains safe and secure.

Check out the resources below for more information regarding the protection of your Social Security Number in today’s world.

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