A Social Security number is the Holy Grail of identity thieves. Nothing else comes close to a Social Security number in value on the black market. That’s because even if an identity thief has your address, phone number, date of birth, and driver’s license number; he still can’t get credit cards or open bank accounts in your name without your Social Security number. Protect your Social Security number!

  1. Go through your wallet. Your Social Security number should not be on anything that you carry around with you. There is no reason to carry your Social Security card with you. It says on Social Security cards ‘Not to be used for identification’, so why carry the card with you?
  2. Get your Social Security number off account numbers. For example, some insurance companies make your Social Security number your account number with them. Contact these companies and demand a new account number, one that is completely different from your Social Security number.
  3. Give your Social Security number to people and businesses on a need-to-know basis only. Some businesses actually do need to know your Social Security number, for example, landlords – like me. Sometimes an applicant for an apartment will refuse to tell me his Social Security number. I tell those people that while I understand their privacy concerns, I cannot run a credit check on someone without his Social Security number, and if I cannot run a credit check on someone, that person will not be getting an apartment from me. Every landlord I know has the same policy. On the other hand, some businesses ask people for their Social Security numbers without a real need-to-know. For example, when you visit a doctor for the first time, you have to fill out a New Patient form. These forms often ask you for your Social Security number, but there is usually no good reason why a doctor needs to know your Social Security number. Leave that line blank. If there is a reason why the doctor needs to know your Social Security number, ask him what it is.

Protect Your Social Security Number

All Social Security cards have the words ‘Not For Identification’ printed on them, but nevertheless, Social Security numbers are our de facto national method of personal identification. Why is that? It is because Social Security numbers are unique and permanent. Once you get a Social Security number, it is yours for life. It is almost impossible to change it. You can change most of the other numbers that identify you. You can easily change your phone number. You can also easily change change your address, bank account number, credit card number, and even your driver’s license number; but you can’t change your Social Security number. That is why Social Security Numbers are the Holy Grail of identity thieves.

You should always be very reluctant to tell anyone your Social Security number. You should reveal your Social Security number on a need-to-know-basis only. Some people and businesses really do need to know your Social Security number. Employers need it for tax purposes. Landlords and credit card companies need it so they can run credit reports. However, most of the businesses that ask you for your Social Security number don’t actually need it. For example, doctors and hospitals routinely ask new patients for their Social Security numbers, but they rarely need this information. When in doubt, either leave the Social Security number line blank on forms and see what happens or ask someone why they need it.

You should never include your Social Security number in an email. Email is not a secure method of communication. Also, never give your Social Security number to someone calling you on the phone, even if the person claims to be working for the federal government or your bank. The federal government and your bank already know your Social Security number. You should also never carry your Social Security card or have your Social Security number written down on anything in your wallet.