Your Social Security Number (SSN) is a crucial piece of information that identity thieves covet. From opening credit cards in your name to redirecting checks and benefits payments, a criminal who has your nine-digit number can create financial havoc that may take years to undo.
While there are certain ways you can keep thieves who have stolen your SSN from opening new accounts—mainly by requesting a credit freeze from the three main credit reporting agencies—you can also proactively keep people from accessing your Social Security record online.
Blocking online access
At the Social Security Online Services site you can choose to block anyone from gaining electronic access to your SSN. You’ll find this option at the bottom of the page in the “General Help” section. Click on Block Electronic Access to Your Account. After filling out a few screens’ worth of information, you’ll then be given the opportunity to block anyone from getting online access to your Social Security records.
But before you do…
Rather than block access, you may instead want to achieve essentially the same objective by creating your own online Social Security account. Start at the Social Security Online Services site home page and click on the “Sign in/Up” button. From there you’ll be able to set up your own account using your own user name, password and email address. After validating your account (either by email or through a text message) you’ll be able to access your personal Social Security information online.
Every time you log in you’ll need to authenticate your identity using a code that the system will send you either by text or email.
The advantage of creating your own account is that you’ll prevent someone else who has your SSN from creating a fake account in your name. And, once you’ve established your account you’ll be able to:
- View and download your Social Security statement, which includes your estimated Social Security monthly benefits and your earnings history;
- Apply for retirement, disability and Medicare benefits (when you’re eligible); and
- Change your address and telephone number (if you’re receiving benefits).
If you do wish to block online access to your SSN, you won’t be able to establish a new Social Security Online account or regain access to your existing account until you’ve contacted the Social Security administration to ask them to unblock electronic access.
Also keep in mind that opening a Social Security account won’t necessarily prevent identity thieves from being able to steal your SSN from other sources and using it to commit financial fraud. That’s why it’s important to diligently monitor your banking, investment and credit card accounts and report any suspicious activity. If this kind of fraud has occurred, you can help to head off future fraud by taking steps to protect your financial security.
This article was written by Michael Flaherty, a financial advisor located at Canby Financial Advisors, 161 Worcester Road, Framingham, MA 01701. He offers securities and advisory services as an Investment Adviser Representative of Commonwealth Financial Network®, Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser. He can be reached at 508.598.1082 or at [email protected]
©2019 Canby Financial Advisors