What is the most important number you possess which is with you from birth to death? Your Social Security number! Newborns receive their unique number within a few weeks of their birth, where it is used throughout their lives to be claimed as a dependent on their parent’s tax return, apply for that first job, to identify them for credit purposes and eventually to allow them to file for benefits based on their lifetime earnings. Because of the importance of this number throughout your life, it is equally important to protect and review the information tied to it throughout your life.
How do you protect your Social Security number (SS#)?
- Don’t carry your card in your wallet. If your wallet is lost or stolen, thieves will likely have not only your SS#, but will probably get your driver’s license and other information. This can quickly lead to identity theft.
- Don’t give out your SS# to retailers, phone callers, or others. The practice of using your SS# as your user id for logons has been largely halted and should be kept protected. Even your Medicare card will no longer have your SS# on the card as Medicare phases in replacement cards over the next year.
- Review your SS information periodically to ensure it reflects correct information. The SS administration no longer mails out annual statements to workers, so it is up to you to review and identify your information. This will also allow you to bring errors to the attention of the Social Security Administration in a timely manner for resolution.
If you are not already aware, the Social Security Administration has an online tool called mySocialSecurity where you can create an online account. This account will allow you to access your earnings record so that you can verify that the correct earnings are being recorded each year. It will also allow you to see your estimated benefit amounts at age 62, Full Retirement Age, and age 70. If you are getting ready to file for benefits, it will allow you to complete your application from your online portal. If you are already collecting benefits, it will allow you to change your direct deposit online. This is also the location where you can request a replacement Medicare card if needed.
The account creation process will require you have not only your social security number, date of birth and address information, but will also ask you some unique questions where only you should know the answers. This might include prior names (which Social Security would be aware of), former loans, former addresses, or current credit card providers, which are all things that would be part of your credit history. Although these questions may seem a bit imposing, you can understand the need for Social Security to verify your identity to such an important access point.
In order to create an account with Social Security, click here.
Who needs to create an account? The Social Security Administration suggests that everyone over the age of 18 should have a mySocialSecurity account. This is the only way to protect your Social Security information throughout your life, to ensure that you are being credited with the correct earnings and to ensure that no one else is using your Social Security number illegally to work in the U.S. In addition, if you do find errors it should be reported to the Office of the Inspector General to begin the process of getting these errors corrected.