What is ID theft and how can you protect yourself from it?

If you received your Social Security Number (SSN) from the U.S. government, you might have been warned that you should leave your card at home or keep it somewhere safe. The main reason for this is to protect your identity (ID) information from being stolen. But what is ID theft? And why is it so important to protect your SSN from being used by others? Most importantly, how can you keep your SSN private? 

 

What are the identity documents in the U.S.?

In general, a state-issued driver’s license or state-issued identity card can be used as official identification in the U.S. Moreover, criminals can use your Social Security Number to steal your identity. Because Social Security card is used for numerous parts of your life in the U.S., which is why it’s super important to protect it. Read on to understand why protecting your SSN is so important. 

 

What is ID theft?

Let’s begin with the definition of identity theft. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it’s “The illegal use of someone else’s personal information (such as a Social Security number) especially in order to obtain money or credit.” Every SSN is unique, so once thieves get your personal information, especially your SSN, they can access all the accounts and services connected to it. 

 

What do you use your SSN for?

Your SSN is used for numerous parts of your life in the U.S., which is why it’s super important to protect it. Here are some examples of when you’ll need to provide your SSN:

When you get hired:

Your employer will ask for your SSN in order to report your employment information to the Internal Revenue Service and the Social Security Administration. Sometimes, your employer might even run a soft background check to make sure your credit history is good and that you’re eligible to work in the U.S.

When opening a credit card account in the U.S:

Though there might be some credit card companies that offer a credit card to international students without a SSN, you still need to keep an eye on your SSN. Credit card companies often check your credit history before they approve your application, and your SSN will be used to do it.

When taking a driver’s license test:

To get an official driver’s license, you’ll need to provide your SSN; otherwise, you may only get a temporary driver’s license as an international student.

 

How do you protect your SSN?

Okay, now you know how important your SSN is and you want to make sure it’s not stolen. Here are some tips to help you protect your SSN in a proactive way:

Ask why someone is requesting  your SSN:

You have the right to ask for the reason why someone needs your SSN. Moreover, you should also ask how they’re going to store your SSN and keep your identification safe.

Don’t send your SSN through the internet:

You never know whether there is someone looking through your data or monitoring your device. If you need to give out your SSN, it will be safer to do it in person. However, if that isn’t an option, you can ask for an alternative way to provide your SSN such as a secure web browser.

Check your accounts on a regular basis:

Remember to go through your bank and credit card statements every month. This is one of the most efficient ways to keep track of your accounts. You can also request notifications whenever the card is used.

 

If you find something suspicious, take action.

If you find out that there are some suspicious activities associated with your account, you should take action as soon as possible. Visit the Federal Trade Commission website to report identity theft and to get a recovery plan. The website will guide you through each step of the recovery process. For instance, you can contact your bank or credit card company to cancel your card and request a new one.

Everyone should be cautious about keeping your SSN and other private identification information safe. That way, they won’t be misused and you will avoid extra stress.

 

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