Hackers gained American’s personal data, including their Social Security numbers, addresses, and birth dates. The executive director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Beth Givens, said, “The type of information that has been exposed is really sensitive. All in all, this has the potential to be a very harmful breach to those who are affected by it.” As an active participant online, you should be cautious with your personal data. What can hackers do with your information, and how can you protect yourself online?
The Importance Of Your Social Security Number
A social security number is a form of identification issued by the government’s Social Security Administration. The government uses the number to track how long you’ve worked throughout your life, and how much you’ve made while doing so. The government also uses your social security number as a form of tax-identification. Social security numbers are used to index other records as well, including employee, patient, student, and credit records.
It is the most important piece of identification you have, which also makes it the most valuable to hackers and identity thieves. If a credit card number is stolen, you can immediately cancel that card. But if your social security number is stolen, you’re stuck. There’s no easy way to get a new social security number.
Your social security number can impact many parts of your life. For example, if you are injured and are unable to work for an extended period of time, you may be eligible to receive social security disability benefits. If you have suffered a medical condition that is expected to last for more than a year or possibly result in death, a social security lawyer can help you get the compensation to which you’re entitled.
However, if your identity has been stolen, you could have a difficult time receiving compensation at all. According to the Social Security Administration, “studies show that a 20-year-old worker has a 1-in-4 chance of becoming disabled before reaching full retirement age.” An accident can happen anytime, which is why it’s important to make efforts to protect your identity. The last thing you want is to file for Social Security benefits, only to then realize that an identity thief has already depleted your account.
What Can An Identify Thief Do With Your Number?
If a hacker gets a hold of your social security number, they are now able to
• Open Financial Accounts in Your Name – Credit cards and loans can be opened in your name. Once a thief begins missing payments, it will affect your credit score.
• Receive Medical Care – Thieves can use your health insurance coverage and undergo medical treatment with your social security number.
• File a Falsified Tax Refund – A growing problem, the Internal Revenue Service has said that in 2016 there was $227 million lost in fraudulent tax returns.
• Commit Crimes – If arrested, a thief can give out your social security number, tainting your criminal history.
Monitor Your Social Security Number
Your social security number can be stolen at any time, which is why you must remain diligent monitoring it for fraudulent activity. Consider using some of these tips, and be on the lookout for any unauthorized activity.
• Check Your Credit – Every American is entitled to a free copy of their credit report from each of the credit reporting agencies. At the very least, you should use this service to check your credit at least once a year. Many credit card companies offer free access to credit reports as a benefit to cardholders, so you may be able to check your report more frequently. When checking, you should be on the lookout for any information that is inaccurate, incomplete, or unfamiliar. If you notice any of these things, call a major credit reporting agency to request a fraud alert be placed on your file. If the situation is dire, you can place a freeze on your credit as well.
• Never Carry Your Card with You – If you are ever robbed, or lose your wallet or purse, your card could be gone forever. Keep it in a secure place in your home.
• Be Careful When Giving Out Your Number – You should never give out your social security number on an unsolicited phone call. You also should never put your number, or any other sensitive information, in an email or a text message.
• Contact the Authorities if Your Account is Compromised – You should first file a report with your local police department. Then, file an identity theft affidavit with the IRS and the Federal Trade Commission.