Social Security Protection: How Simple Maintenance Tasks Can Ward Off ID Theft

Retired couple with household bills.
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Identity theft is a problem for everyone, but the risk increases the closer you get to retirement age and start collecting Social Security benefits. These benefits are a favorite target for identity thieves, which means it’s important to take steps ahead of time to lessen the risk of being victimized.

Beware: 5 Everyday Things You Do That Can Trigger a Bank Fraud Alert
Warning: Don’t Get Caught in These Fake Check Scams

Identity thieves are much more sophisticated now than they were back when their main option was to steal Social Security checks out of mailboxes, Retirement Weekly editor Bob Carlson wrote in a recent column for Forbes. These days, thieves use fake email, fake websites and fraudulent telephone calls to get your Social Security number and start filing for benefits in your name.

“The scams will escalate as the Baby Boomers age, and the large Millennial cohort right behind the Boomers makes a continuation of such scams likely,” Carlson wrote. “You’re a potential victim whether or not you’re already receiving benefits.”

To reduce the risk, he recommends setting up a mySocialSecurity account at SSA.gov. Among its features is a calculator to estimate the benefits you can receive under different scenarios and a tool that lets you check the accuracy of your earnings history. You will also be able to apply for benefits online.

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From a security standpoint, a mySocialSecurity account lets you check activity associated with your Social Security number, which means you can find out if someone applies for benefits in your name or attempts to change your address or the bank account where your benefits are deposited. Be sure to review the account every so often to see if there is any suspicious activity you don’t recognize.

You can also call the Social Security Administration’s toll-free number periodically to check if there has been any activity in your account.

Once you start receiving benefits, it is important to ensure your monthly payment is deposited on time into your bank account. If you notice that a deposit is late, contact the SSA to find out what happened.

Here are some other steps you can take to reduce the risk of someone stealing your Social Security info:

  • Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet or give out your SSN unless absolutely necessary.
  • Don’t share personal information, such as your SSN, with anyone you don’t know or trust.
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See: 11 Social Security Mistakes That Can Cost You a Fortune
Discover: The Salary You Need To Make To Get the Maximum Social Security Benefit

If you think you’ve been the victim of Social Security identity theft, the SSA recommends visiting IdentityTheft.gov to report it and get a recovery plan. The site, which is managed by the Federal Trade Commission, guides you through each step of the recovery process. You can also call 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338) or TTY 1-866-653-4261.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.
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