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How Secure Is Your Social Security Number

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You’d be surprised. The Anthem breach exposed 80 million Social Security numbers. Premera? 11 million. You can’t prevent a breach, but you can take these steps.

No single kind of personally identifiable information is more generally useful to thieves than the Social Security number. Think about it. On far too many websites and in far too many businesses, it’s easy to skip annoying identification steps with those 9 digits.

You can’t control breaches or black markets, but with these easy steps, you can help put the “security” back in Social Security number.

1. Always leave home without it
There are very few reasons to keep your Social Security card on you. Unless you absolutely need it at the DMV or other official location requesting that specific proof of ID on a specific day, keep your Social Security card in a safe place at home.

2. Don’t be an over-sharer
Just because a business asks for your Social Security number doesn’t mean you have to provide it. Whether it’s in a form at the doctor’s office, over the phone with your insurance company, or online to recover a bank password, resist parting with those 9 digits. Simply say you’re uncomfortable giving your SSN out and would prefer to confirm your ID another way. If you’re online, call the company directly to get around having to provide your SSN.

3. Review your Social Security Administration earnings info
Every 5 years, you get a Social Security earnings statement in the mail. That’s not nearly frequent enough. Fortunately, you can create a free online Social Security account and securely log in to check your Social Security earnings and benefits information. At least once a year, review that information and look for address changes, unfamiliar employers or anything else that doesn’t add up.

4. Start monitoring your credit
Credit monitoring may be your first signal someone has stolen your identity and that your SSN may be at risk. With TransUnion Credit Monitoring, you get email alerts any time there’s a critical change to your TransUnion, Experian or Equifax credit report. You can also check your TransUnion report for suspicious activity whenever you want, online or in our app. And if you find something isn’t right, you can lock your TransUnion report with our exclusive TU Credit Lock.

Remember, Social Security numbers make ID verification and important transactions easier for everyone—including thieves.

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