One of the most sensitive types of personal information we should protect is our social security number. Along with other info such as our name, address, or bank account, this information may be used for identity theft purposes. Moreover, the social security number is the most common information cybercriminals target, as it is their getaway to committing financial fraud. Learn what key precautions you can take to protect your social security number against financial fraud.

Be Cautious and Never Hand out This Information Easily

Scammers use different methods to try and convince people to offer them sensitive data such as social security numbers. They often do this over the phone, by impersonating financial institutions or accounting companies. The reasons they might be asking for your social security number vary. Sometimes, the scam is centered on promising great investment opportunities. In other cases, scammers promise help in calculating your taxes or submitting specific claims. They can even claim to need this information to carry out a precise verification. No matter the reason, one thing is for sure: you should never hand out your social security number over the phone or by email unless you are absolutely sure that you need to share the information, and you know the person who is asking for it. The pushier the person trying to get your number becomes, the warier you should be about sending or telling them your social security number.

Get Informed by Accessing Official Sources

As scams are more frequent these days when more and more people use the internet for various financial-related processes such as filling out their tax reports, the Social Security Administration website (SSA.gov) offers plenty of helpful information on how to remain cautious. As you access the website, you are welcomed by a red banner with the question ‘What should I do if I get called for a problem with my social security number?”. By clicking on the question, you access a handy and comprehensive FAQ section. There, you can find out in what circumstances you may get called by the Social Security Administration. As a general rule,  in the case of official communications, the institution mails people letters when there are any problems concerning them. The SSA will only call you if you have specifically asked to be called. Or if you have been communicating with them for a while, and there are pending matters you need to solve.

Moreover, the employees of any official organization or institution will never insist on obtaining any such information over the phone. Obviously, they will not promise you any benefits in exchange for personal data. As the SSA recommends, if you have received a suspicious call from someone who claimed to be working for them and said they needed your social security number for verification purposes or that there was a problem with your number, you should hang up and then report that call. The website where you can do this is https://oig.ssa.gov.

Don’t Rush to Click on Links Included in ‘Official’ Emails

Most emails from official institutions, such as those you may receive from the SSA, are sent from ‘.gov’ addresses. If you receive an email from an address with a different format, asking you to send your social security number or click on certain links, it should raise a red flag. You should be cautious and think twice before clicking on links or pictures included in the body of the email, or before you download any attachments. Making you download programs is a very prevalent way cybercriminals use to infiltrate your computer. Alternatively, they may direct you to other pages where they ask you to complete a form with personal details. As a general rule, if you do click on any links included in emails sent by official institutions, they will direct you to another official website.

All in all, caution is the best strategy to avoid letting your social security number fall into the wrong hands. Another measure you can take to safeguard this essential information is creating a “my Social Security” account with the SSA. It will enable you to ask for a social security number replacement, check your applications, or manage different benefits. This account can also help you find out any suspicious activity related to your social security number.