The world is much different than it was 20 years ago. Google didn’t exist, Apple was just hanging on as a company and phones were found mostly in homes. Today Google, Apple and wireless providers are some of the most successful companies in the world. These days I find my news on the web as opposed to retrieving and reading the paper at the end of the driveway. Emails, blogs and webinars are the more common ways to communicate as opposed to the call, advertisement or personal visit. I’m trying to keep up, but sometimes I fall behind. It seems as though we live in a time when both the old and the new way of doing things are colliding.
I was young when I received my social security card, maybe eight. It was my number to the world, showing that I existed. It was mine and no one else’s. I proudly carried it in my wallet that I made at summer camp, leather with vinyl lace. Mom and Dad made sure that I kept it with me. I felt so important. Today, my 13 year old son’s social security card is locked up in our safety deposit box, and I don’t think he’s ever seen it. Times have certainly changed. I cringe every time I have to provide my social security number in person or over the phone, in fear of it somehow finding its way into corrupt hands.
Consumers seem to be in lockdown mode today in certain situations, while they remain carefree in others. I’m talking about your credit card and social security numbers. They’re just numbers, but when they are misused by wrongdoers they can have a severe, negative impact on your life. Credit card companies have your back to some degree. When you have a fraudulent purchase, they will typically remove it from your account. Thank you Visa, American Express, Discover and MasterCard. But it’s a different story when it’s your social security number. Who’s got your back if you don’t have identity theft insurance and your number is erroneously misused? Without subscribing to expensive monitoring services, no one does really.
If someone steals your social security number, you can find yourself living in a never-ending nightmare – one that sees credit cards taken out in your name, and purchases shown to be made by you from places you never even shopped. With your number, someone can even file a tax return on your behalf and receive your refund.
Here are some tips for keeping your social security number safe:
Never carry your SSN card in your wallet, keep it in a safe place.
Shred any documents that display your number before discarding them.
Review earnings posted to your record on your social security statement (source: ssa.gov).
Call 1-877-IDTHEFT – a national resource to help deter, detect and defend against identify theft (source: ssa.gov).
Question the reason for having to give your number whenever asked. “Is it absolutely necessary?”
Do your business with companies that enable you to securely and anonymously enter your numbers (social security number and/or credit card number) via your telephone keypad so the customer service rep never has visibility to your number(s).