Unlocking Your Social Security Number
If you lock your SSN, then later need to buy a new car or apply for employment with a company that requires a background check, you can unlock your number at any time.
Use your Social Security account login to sign in to your myE-Verify account, and follow the prompts to unlock your Social Security number. After youve conducted your business, you can lock your number again.
Locking your Social Security number adds an extra layer of security against identity theft, but it also creates a hassle when you need to use your Social Security account.
If that seems like more security than you need, follow the simple security protocols below to help keep your Social Security account safe without locking it.
Are You Eligible For A New Social Security Number
Unfortunately, just because someone has stolen or is using your SSN, doesnât always mean you can get a new one.
The SSA is cautious about changing your number as it can cause complications with your credit report and earnings history, and even make it more difficult to apply for passports, loans, and IDs.
The five situations where you can apply for a new SSN include:
Why Use Self Lock
Employment-related identity fraud could mean that someone else is working under your identity and using your SSN. If this happens, someone elses wages are being reported in your name to the Internal Revenue Service, the Social Security Administration and other authorities. By using Self Lock, you can block someone from committing this fraud if they start working for an E-Verify employer. Even if you are not currently working, you may want to protect your SSN and identity with Self Lock.
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Do Not Carry Your Social Security Card
If you are wondering how to protect your Social Security card, the answer is simple. Simply do not carry it. This increases the chances that you will lose it or leave it behind. This also increases the odds that a thief might obtain your card, thus obtaining your SSN. You should always keep your card in a safe place at home and only carry it along when absolutely necessary. This might be your first day on a new job or when you need to open a new account at the bank. On an average day, however, your card should be tucked away in its safe place so that it does not get lost.
How Long Does The Freeze Last
The freeze of a child’s credit records remains in place until itis removed by the parent or guardian or by the child when he or she is 16 yearsold or older. Removing a freeze requires submitting a written request to thecredit bureaus, along with documentation similar to what is required forplacing the freeze. Credit bureaus may charge up to $10 for removing a securityfreeze. The credit bureaus must remove a freeze within 30 days after receivinga request for removal that provides the required information and fee, ifapplicable.
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Freeze Your Credit For Free
Placing a security freeze on your credit reports can block an identity thief from opening a new account or getting credit in your name. North Carolina residents can set up and manage security freezes free of charge. Credit bureaus must comply with online or telephonic requests for a security freeze within one business day of receiving them. The credit bureaus must comply with requests made by mail within 3 business days of receiving them.
Alert Any Of The 3 Major Credit
It is critical to act swiftly and alert either Equifax, TransUnion or Experian, said David Clark, lawyer and partner at The Clark Law Office. Doing so significantly limits the perpetrators use of your SSN, giving you enough time to settle the issue legally.
Note that this fraud alert must be renewed every 90 days until its established that the theft is resolved.
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How Criminals Steal Your Social Security Number
Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America.
In 2021 alone, nearly six million Americans were the victims of fraud, according to the Federal Trade Commission .
The problem is that scammers are masters at hiding their crimes. They want to be able to use your Social Security number for as long as possible before you catch on. But first, they have to steal it.
So how do criminals steal your Social Security number? Here are the most common ways:
Once a criminal has access to your SSN, they can use it for everything from loan fraud to stealing unemployment benefits in your name.
So, how do you know if someoneâs using your SSN without your permission?
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Instructions Forplacing A Child Security Freeze With Credit Bureaus
Write a hard-copy letter to Equifax and request a “protectedconsumer security freeze.”
Include in the body ofthe letter:
- Name of the person requesting and relationship to the child
- Complete name and address of parent or guardian
- Complete name and address of the child
- Signature of requestor
- Certified or official copy of minor child’s birth certificate
- Copy of minor child’s Social Security card
- Copy of parent/guardian’s Social Security card or a certified orofficial copy of a birth certificate
- Copy of parent/guardian’s driver’s license or other validgovernment-issued identification OR copy of a bill that shows parent/guardian’s name and home address
Equifax does not charge a fee for placing a freeze for a childunder the age of 16.
Send letter and required documents by mail or fax: Mail
For more information, call the Equifax dedicated line forSecurity Freeze questions: 298-0045.
Write a hard-copyletter to Experian and request a “protected consumer security freeze.”
Include in the body ofthe letter:
- Full name of the personrequesting and relationship to the child
- Your Social Securitynumber
- Your address forthe past two years
- Your date of birth
- Child’s address forthe past two years
- Child’s date of birth
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Freezing Your Credit Report
Blocking access to information linked to your SSN may not prevent identity thieves from using it to open fraudulent credit card accounts, apply for medical insurance or borrow money. Freezing your file at Experian, Equifax and TransUnion prohibits third party access to your credit reports, which can prevent illicit accounts from being opened in your name. Freezing a credit report also can shield your address and financial information from other prying eyes.
Pre-existing creditors still may access your credit reports for the purposes of monitoring debt, collections and incidents of identity theft.
To freeze your credit files, visit the freeze page on the website of each credit reporting company to find agency and state-specific requirements. You can also freeze your credit report by each credit reporting agency.
How To Protect Your Social Security Number
By the time you’re an adult, your Social Security number has been entered into so many databases it’s impossible to keep it 100% secure. But there are steps consumers can take to better protect their account numbers.
Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet or purse. Keep it in a safe place at home. And shred any documents or pieces of mail that include your number, rather than just throwing them out. Also, If you’re asked for your SSN, find out why.
“You should feel empowered to ask, ‘Why do you need this? Where are you storing this?'” Hanson said. “‘Is there another piece of information I can use instead?'”
If a company asks for your Social Security number, find out if there’s an alternate form of identification you can use.
Hanson recently took her daughter for a doctor’s visit, and the form at the counter requested both of their SSNs.
“There was really no need for them,” Hanson said. “So I left it blank on the form and they didn’t say anything.”
Another way to protect your Social Security number is by “freezing” your credit reports with Transunion, Equifax and Experian.
If someone tries to use your number to open a credit card or get a loan, the request for your credit report will be declined. You can freeze your report indefinitely or set a specific “thaw” date.
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What To Do If Your Social Security Number Gets Out
If you think you’ve been the victim of identity theft using your Social Security number, report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission, your local police department and any businesses that may’ve been given your number fraudulently.
If you think your number has been used illicitly to get a job or access your tax return, you can also contact the Social Security Administration at 800-772-1213 or visit the IRS’ identity theft site.
Though it’s possible to get a new Social Security number, it likely won’t solve all your problems, according to the FTC.
“Sometimes getting a new number can leave you worse off,” Steve Toporoff with the FTC’s Division of Privacy and Identity Protection said in a statement, “because you need to contact all the government agencies, financial institutions, credit bureaus, health insurers and other places where the old Social Security number might be used.”
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Learn And Memorize Your Social Security Number
Though you should always protect your Social Security number, there are certain situations when your number is needed. This could be applying for a new car loan or opening a bank account. Memorizing your SSN will allow you to provide this information without the need to look at your Social Security card. Most of the time when you need your SSN, you simply need to know your number and do not need to present your actual Social Security card. In these cases, having your number memorized reduces the chances that your card gets lost or left behind. This is a great way to help keep your SSN safe.
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Clarks Take On What You Should Do If Your Social Security Number Is On The Dark Web
Clark says this is a big issue that affects an untold number of people. He says, when hes out and about, people keep asking him about the notices theyve been getting from Discover about the dark web.
Clark describes the dark web as basically message boards and discussion boards where people buy and sell information on other people for purposes of identity theft or applying for credit or buying things as if theyre someone else..
The dark web is also a haven for cybercrime communities, according to this cybersecurity guidebook from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Be Wary Of Sharing Your Ssn Electronically
As we just mentioned, there are times when sharing your SSN is absolutely necessary. However, you should be careful of the method by which you share your number. Never send your SSN through email, especially email that is not secure and encrypted. Sending your SSN over email allows a perfect opportunity for hackers to intercept your SSN and use it illegally. In addition, entering your SSN into websites can be dangerous. If you must use a website to share your number, make absolutely certain that the website is secure and is not impersonating the site that you intended to use. Whenever possible, only share your SSN via paper documents or over the phone. Giving your Social Security number over the phone to a trusted source reduces the odds that your electronic communication will be intercepted and your number stolen.
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Self Lock Helps Protect You From Employment
Self Lock is the unique feature that lets you protect your identity in E-Verify and Self Check by placing a “lock” on your Social Security number . This helps prevent anyone else from using your SSN to try to get a job with an E-Verify employer. If an employer enters your locked SSN in E-Verify to confirm employment authorization, it will result in an E-Verify mismatch, called a Tentative Nonconfirmation . With Self Lock, you are always in control – you can unlock your SSN any time a new employer needs to verify your employment authorization in E-Verify. Your Self Lock remains active as long as your account remains valid and you have not unlocked your SSN. The Self Lock feature is only available to myE-Verify account holders.
Monitor Your Credit Report
This is one of the best ways to protect your Social Security number. You must keep a close eye on your credit report. You can obtain a free copy from each of the major credit bureaus at annualcreditreport.com. If someone is attempting to use your information to obtain credit, then it will appear on your credit report. The sooner you identify any issues, the sooner you can begin to correct issues and protect yourself from further financial damage.
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When To Share Your Social Security Number
Though it’s important to protect your Social Security number, there are legitimate reasons for sharing those nine digits.
“Any company that you’re applying to for a loan or line of credit needs your number,” Paige Hanson, cyber safety education chief at NortonLifeLock, said in an interview.
That includes banks and credit reporting agencies, Hanson said, but it could also mean a cell service provider, since a phone contract is like a line of credit.
Your Social Security number is also going to be mandatory for “anything that triggers tax reporting,” including your employer reporting your wages to the IRS, said Alan Butler, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a nonprofit focused on defending privacy and identity rights.
You’ll need to share it if you have an investment adviser or are engaging in a cash transaction of $10,000 or more, like buying a car or house.
Government agencies that provide benefits can also request your number, including the US Department of Labor and state agencies that administer Medicaid. Those requests should come with a disclosure form that explains whether the number is required or optional, confirms the agency’s authority to ask for it and explains what it’ll be used for.
Report And Close The Fraudulent Accounts
Contact the companies where fraud happened. Tell each companys fraud department that someone opened an account using your childs information, and ask them to close the account. Ask for written confirmation that says that your child isnt responsible for the account.
Contact the three credit bureaus. Tell each credit bureau that someone opened an account using your childs information. Ask them to remove any fraudulent accounts from your childs credit report.
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How Does A Credit Freeze Compare With A Fraud Alert
If you’ve been a victim of identity theft or suspect your personal information is otherwise being abused by criminals, you can limit most access to your credit reports by requesting security freezes at all three national credit bureaus. Doing so can limit unauthorized credit checks, but can also limit processing of your own legitimate credit applications.
While a to your credit report until you lift it, fraud alerts are temporary. An initial fraud alert remains for one year, while an extended alert remains for seven. And while freezes must be removed before most access is granted, fraud alerts give lenders access to your credit reports and ask that they verify your identity before processing credit applications made under your name.
Compared with the process of lifting and reapplying a credit freeze at all three credit bureaus anytime you need to allow access to your report and scores, a fraud alert offers a more convenient and potentially safer alternative. A fraud alert stays in place while you continue to use your credit as normal, and won’t need to be lifted like a credit freeze would.
Unlike a credit freeze, when you request a fraud alert at any one of the three credit bureaus , alerts are automatically placed at all three bureaus. Removing fraud alerts before they expire will require you to contact each bureau separately.
Act Quickly If You Notice Issues
After following all the other steps, you should be alerted to any fraudulent activity using your SSN quickly. It is also imperative that you act quickly when you notice this type of activity. This can prevent further damage and harm to your finances or credit history. You should immediately take action and follow the advice laid out in the next section.
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