Guarding Your Social Security Number

guard, protect, identity theftAnytime you want to start phone or utility service, apply for a credit card or even visit your doctor, you will be asked for your Social Security number.

Most people assume that they have no choice in the matter, and simply hand it over. In reality, you do not have to give out your Social Security number in the vast majority of cases.

Your employer and your bank are about the only two companies that actually need your Social Security number. The rest of them are simply using it as an identification number, which they could just as easily do with your driver’s license number or another piece of information.

If you try to withhold your Social Security number, you will probably be met with much resistance. The customer service reps helping you likely won’t even know what to do without it. So you may be transferred around several times before you talk to someone who has the authority to give you an account without a Social Security number.

You may also need to fax over copies of additional documentation, such as your driver’s license or a company ID, but rest assured it can be done.

Why go through all of this hassle?

Because if your Social Security number falls into the wrong hands, criminals can open credit card accounts and even apply for a mortgage in your name. By the time you realize what’s happened, months or even years may have gone by -- and you’ll have a hard time convincing creditors that it wasn’t really you who made all those purchases.

This type of identity theft is all too common. In 2005, over 8 million Americans -- or nearly 4 percent of all U.S. adults -- had their identities stolen.  

Take it from me -- I was one of those victims. In 2005, a phishing scam got a hold of some of my personal information, and criminals tried to open a Dell credit account and purchase computer equipment. Fortunately, I was aware of the leaked information and had security alerts put in place because of it.

But many people are not as fortunate and do not even realize that their information has been compromised.

So you simply must take every precaution to protect your personal information, and the less you need to give out your Social Security number, the better.

So don’t simply assume that you must give it out. It will take some work on your part, but it IS possible to get things done without giving your Social Security number.
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