How To Securely Send Your Personal Information
A few months ago, my parents asked a great security question: How could they securely send their passport numbers to a travel agent? They knew email wasnt safe on its own.
Standard email indeed isnt safe for sending high-value personal information such as credit card or passport numbers, according to security experts such as Robert Hansen, CEO of intelligence and analysis firm OutsideIntel, now part of Bit Discovery.
Email sometimes has good cryptography but often does not, Hansen says. When sending between Gmail accounts or within a company, he adds, secure transport probably isnt an issue. But people should ask themselves, Can somebody steal the data when its at rest?
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Theres no 100 percent hack-proof way to send your personal information across the Internet. But thanks to the development of end-to-end encryption, which secures data from even the company providing the encryption, there are tools and techniques you can use to make the process safer for you and the identification numbers we use to rule our lives.
Here are three expert tips for securely sending someone your personal information when planning your summer vacation, buying your next house, or just sending documents to your doctors office
Tip 1: Use an app with end-to-end encryption
Tip 2: If you must use email
Tip 3: Ask questions
S To Take If You Think Youve Been Scammed
The Social Security Administration publishes a useful booklet called “Identity Theft and Your Social Security Number.” In addition to basic protection tips, it provides information about what you should do if you believe your identity and SSN have been stolen or compromised.
The Social Security Administration closed all of its offices for in-person services in March 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Its online services, however, remain available.
Security Tips For Sending Personal Data Over Email
What kind of information should I not send via email?
We all need to be mindful when sharing personal information, whether it is our own or that of others.
You should not send personally identifiable information via unencrypted email. It is not a secure way to send any information and could expose you to data hacking.
What is personally identifiable information?
Personally identifiable information or personal data is information that either on its own, or when put together with other data, can identify an individual.
Examples of PII include: social security numbers, tax identification numbers, home / business addresses, phone numbers, credit card numbers, dates of birth, copies of government-issued IDs and health information.
Why is it dangerous to send PII over email?
When you send an email, you dont necessarily know how many networks or servers the message will pass through on its way to the recipient, or who has access to them. In addition, emails sitting on your device may be accessible to a third party. Lets also not forget the common error of emailing a message to the wrong recipient!
How can I securely transfer PII?
To be truly secure, the message must be encrypted before it leaves the senders computer and it must remain encrypted until the recipient receives it.
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Beware Of Scams & Frauds
- Never give personal information to telemarketers who call you on the phone. To cut down on unwanted telemarketing calls, sign up for the Do Not Call Registry online or call 382-1222.
- Double-check references for door-to-door sales, home repair offers and other products.
- Verify that charities, businesses and others who contact you are who they claim to be before you provide any personal information. If you think the request for information is legitimate, hang up and contact the company at a number you know is valid to verify the request.
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Protect Your Information Online
- Beware of phishing, emails that claim to come from a bank, Internet Service Provider, business or charity and ask you to confirm your personal information or account number. Forward the email to .
- Never send your SSN or financial account numbers by email or transmit these numbers online unless using a secure website or encryption software.
- Shop only on secure websites, and read website privacy policies
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Dont Give Your Ssn To Strangers
Never give out your SSN to anyone who asks for it over the phone, email, or Internet.
If someone does ask for it, be suspicious. Ask why they need the number, then look up the company they claim they work for and see if they have a legitimate purpose for asking. For example, you might need to provide your SSN to verify your identity when you apply for a loan, but you should never give it out to someone who cold-calls you or shows up at your door trying to sell you something.
Its especially common for people to impersonate Internal Revenue Service representatives and ask for victims Social Security numbers. If this happens to you, dont comply. The IRS will never call and ask for your SSN or bank information over the phone because they already have it. They communicate by official mail only.
Send Secure Email Links With The Kiteworks Platform
The Kiteworks Content Firewall provides secure email and secure file sharing services that comply with several key data privacy requirements without sacrificing usability or enterprise functionality. When you adopt the Kiteworks platform, you can send secure email links to customers to ensure your email communications, especially those containing PII, stay protected and confidential. The Kiteworks platform provides several critical features to help you maintain your compliance and business strategies:
- A platform that helps you meet key data privacy requirements like HIPAA, NIST 800-171, FedRAMP, DPA, CCPA, GDPR and others. It also includes SOC 2 attestations for Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure cloud environments.
- High-level encryption standards, including AWS-256 encryption for data at rest and TLS 1.2 encryption for data in transit.
- Secure, easy access to all enterprise content repositories , including cloud storage, file servers, ECM, ERP and CRM systems.
- One-click auditing and reporting to demonstrate adherence to internal processes and external compliance regulations.
- On-premise, private cloud, hybrid or FedRAMP deployment options with no intermingling of your data or metadata with other customers.
- A robust CISO Dashboard to help you monitor file activity and access while providing forensic data in the event of an audit or forensic investigation.
- Advanced security features like threat detection, unified logging, and SIEM integration.
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Guard Your Pins & Passwords
- Avoid using easily available information for your PIN or password such as your mothers maiden name, your birth date, SSN, or phone number, or a series of consecutive numbers .
- Also, avoid using information for your PIN or password that could be easily guessed based on information you post on social networking sites, such as the names of your children or pets.
- Dont use the same PINs or passwords for more than one account.
- Dont share your passwords or PINs with other people.
- Dont carry PINs or passwords in your wallet or purse.
- Ask banks, insurance companies, credit card companies and other firms that you do business with online to keep your information private. Ask them to change passwords from your SSN.
At The Very Least Remember This
Even people who are confident in their scam-detecting skills can get tricked by criminals. And sometimes, you let your guard down without thinking and find yourself in vulnerable circumstanceslike my emailers.
Heres the very least you need to remember to keep your identity safe. Learn it, live it, love it:
- The IRS never calls asking for your Social Security number. The IRS rarely calls at all, and prefers snail mail.
- The Social Security Administration doesnt call you asking for your number. They already have it.
- Never email sensitive personal information like your SSN or images of government documents unless that transmission will be encrypted. For example: Your doctors office ask you to upload a photo of your ID to their patient portal? Thats fine. But you shouldnt just send them an email with the image attached.
- Dont volunteer your SSN to anyone unless youre absolutely sure they need it to provide the services you have requested. Dont be afraid to ask if you can provide an alternate way to verify your identity.
- When in doubt, tell a caller youll dial your directly before providing whatever personal information youve been asked for.
- Dont click on links texted or emailed by people you dont know, or from people claiming to be from government agencies.
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How Can I Protect My Social Security Number
By the time youre an adult, your Social Security number has been entered into so many databases its impossible to keep it 100% secure. But there are steps consumers can take to better protect their account numbers.
Dont 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 youre 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 theres an alternate form of identification you can use.
Hanson recently took her daughter for a doctors 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 didnt 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.
Review Your Social Security Earnings Records
On rare occasions, multiple people may accidentally use the same SSN when filing paperwork. Review your earnings posted on your Social Security statement and contact the Social Security Administration if you notice any inconsistencies.
You can report fraud to the SSA by calling their toll-free line at 1-877-438-4338 or online at ftc.gov/idtheft.
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Phishing Attacks Over Email Text Message Or Phone Calls
Phishing is a type of social engineering attack in which scammers pose as employees from organizations or businesses and use fraudulent emails, texts, or phone calls to trick you into sharing personal details. The messages appear legitimate, but they include malicious links to spoofed websites where scammers can steal your SSN.
In other types of phishing attacks, scammers may call and pretend to be from Medicare or another government organization and ask you to âverifyâ your SSN.
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Potential Employer Wants Me To Email My Ssn With An Application Form Is This A Major Security Risk
I’m job hunting at the moment and I’ve come across several potential employers that have PDF’s that you would download, fill in, and then email to them. I feel EXTREMELY uncomfortable sending my personal information such as name, address, phone number, work history…etc through such insecure methods, never mind my SSN or similar sensitive information.
I feel like this is a major personal security risk for myself. Is it? If so, how can I make that clear to them while still maintaining my eligibility for employment?
I feel like this is a major personal security risk for myself. Is it?
It may be. You may not be targeted specifically, but “email is a private as a postcard”.
If so, how can I make that clear to them while still maintaining my eligibility for employment?
I would’ve called my contact person and explained that I’m a security conscious person and that I don’t feel comfortable with sending all that information over the Internet. I would then ask if there is another way for them to recieve it, or if they could wait until an in-person interview.
It may also be illegal for them to require you to send it over unecrypted email, depending on which state you are in. I’m neither a US citizen or a lawyer, but this came to mind:
See and for example California civil code
Is this a major security risk?
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Networks The Email Is Sent Through
The 2018 Symantec Internet Security Threat Report states that 95% of cybersecurity breaches are due to human error. Cyber-criminals and hackers will always infiltrate your company through your weakest link, which is almost never your IT department. If your email is hosted externally from your organization, then when you email a contact outside of your organization, the email is sent over the internet using a minimum of three connections. So although networks are a little more complicated, they are much more open to access from multiple locations. If you are emailing someone on the same service, such as Outlook or Gmail, the first two network vulnerabilities could be compromised. If the recipient uses a different type of email host, then there is at least one more vulnerability of the connection between your host and the recipients email server. In other words, just because one or two connections are secure, there is no guarantee than the others are secure in the sequence.
Is It Safe To Email Your Social Security Number
Like most digital natives, you probably prefer sending documents via email instead of using postal services. Emailing is quicker and more convenient, after all.
Although its normal to submit paperwork online, think twice before divulging confidential details like your Social Security Number . Carelessly emailing personal information puts you at risk of identity theft.
As daily email users, we also want to protect our online documents. So we asked our team to gather the most important best practices when disclosing confidential personal data.
Please read without skipping. Well share with you a very alarming yet common mistake many Americans commit when disclosing their SSN. Beware: you might already be divulging more personal information than needed.
So, is it safe to email your Social Security Number? Lets find out!
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Know How To Spot A Scam
There are many types of financial scams out there: real estate, , investments, taxes, and more. The first rule of spotting a scam is if it sounds too good to be true, it is.
Scammers usually pretend to be someone you know like a distant family member, or someone with credibility like an IRS agent, police officer, bank employee, or tech company. They tell you theres a problem with your account or have won a prize but theres a fee to collect it.
A scammers primary weapon is to create a sense of urgency and pressure you to respond and act immediately. They will say anything to keep you on the phone and prevent you from checking out their story.
Finally, a scammer tells you to pay using an untraceable method like a gift card or money transfer.
Anyone calling from a legitimate business or agency will not object if you say you need to verify the information theyre giving you. They may even help you do so.
If you suspect someone is scamming you, report it to the FTC.
Email Our Support Team
Social Security cannot answer questions about economic impact payments under the recently enacted law, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act. Treasury, not Social Security, will be making direct payments to eligible people. For more information, visit www.irs.gov/coronavirus.
Many of our services are now available online, like applying for Social Security benefits, requesting a replacement Social Security card, getting your Social Security Statement, and benefit verification letter.
You can also look for answers to your questions on our Frequently Asked Questions page.
We realize that each persons situation is unique. While we are unable to answer questions in this forum that require access to your personal information, such as benefits you may be entitled to, we care. Please toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 for assistance. Representatives are available between 8a.m. and 7p.m., Monday through Friday. For the location and other information about your local Social Security office, use our locator.
If you cannot find your answer online and do not have a question about your personal situation, complete the form below to send us an email. Please do not include Social Security numbers in your message.
We are experiencing high volumes of email and may not be able to respond to your inquiry promptly. We appreciate your patience.
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When Its Okay To Disclose Your Ssn
Horror stories about identity theft will make you think that no one should ever know your SSN. No, you wont take it to your grave.
The SSN is a unique nine-digit number that the Social Security Administration uses to track ones lifetime earnings. However, it evolved into a universal identifier over time.
Nowadays, organizations and institutions might ask your SSN if they need to:
- Report your income to the Internal Revenue Service
- Confirm your identity for financial transactions under the Customer Identification Program
- Check your credit records
- File your earnings as an employer
- See if you qualify for certain government benefits programs
To help you better understand when its okay to disclose your SSN, weve come up with several example situations:
1. Financing a car or property
Financial institutions and lenders need your SSN to run accurate credit checks otherwise, credit bureaus wont release your credit history.
Youll likely provide the SSN in person. The bank teller might ask you to dictate your SSN or type it into a secure keypad.
2. Applying for government programs
Federal and state agencies need your SSN to confirm your identity and track your declared income before approving you for a benefits program.
The same rule applies to tax benefits. IRS agents will ask for a verbal confirmation of your SSN, or at least the last five digits, before releasing your refunds.
3. Submitting employment paperwork
4. Requesting credit history