How to Freeze Your Social Security Number
Table of Contents
- By Miguel
- Jul 05, 2022
Identity theft is serious, and it can be challenging to know if someone is illegally using your personal information.
Identity theft affects more than 13 million individuals annually in the U.S., with losses topping $15 billion. It's a serious issue that can result in years of financial headaches as victims attempt to rebuild their credit, prove their innocence, and regain control of their finances.
The ability to do an SSN freeze might prevent the worst effects of identity theft. Learning to freeze your social security number starts with knowing why it's essential.
How Identity Theft Happens
Tiny details of your identity are available online. Should these data points combine, it's possible for people with malicious intent to impersonate you and steal your identity. Data breaches have exposed millions of people's personal information, from passwords to social security numbers to birthdates. Experian, one of the major credit reporting agencies, even had a significant data breach that endangered millions of identities.
Hackers often sell all or part of a person's identifying data on the Dark Web, an arm of the internet that brokers lots of illicit deals. Others may become the targets of phishing scams that trick them into releasing identifying information like bank account PINs and passwords.
Keeping as much of your data out of the hands of hackers as possible (particularly your social security number) is vital.
Signs That Someone Stole Your Identity
If you're the victim of a data breach announced by a major company, you should assume that someone compromised your identity. Move quickly to freeze your social security number. At other times, identity theft can be subtle, but indications usually add up. If you see any signs of identity theft, you should take action before someone does any severe damage.
Pay close attention:
- If unfamiliar loan paperwork shows up in your mailbox, it could mean that someone is applying for loans using your name.
- If you don't receive your tax return, it may mean that someone has already used your social security number to file the return and collect your money.
- If you receive rejection notices for credit cards or loans you didn't apply for, it may mean someone is tampering with your identity.
- If medical bills are on your account for services you did not receive, it is an indication that someone compromised your identity.
- Someone is likely using your identity if your annual credit report checks show unrecognized activity, such as loans or credit cards.
- If a collection agency contacts you for unpaid debts that you know are not yours, there's a strong possibility that someone stole your identifying data.
- If you receive a statement about unemployment benefits that you didn't collect, it could mean someone has filed a claim under your name.
Ways to Prevent Identity Theft
- Freeze your social security number, which is a critical component of your unique profile.
- Don't advertise your birthdate or even use it on your social media profiles because, with it, a thief can cash in on your profile.
- Hide your home address as it is an integral part of your identity.
- Avoid answering online quizzes, which are stealthy ways of stealing information hackers may try to use as passwords or in an attempt to answer security questions.
Steps to Freezing Your Social Security Number
The Social Security Administration's website, IdentityTheft.gov, provides information about social security numbers, keeping them safe, and what to do if you believe someone stole yours. Their suggestions include:
- Place a fraud alert on your banking and credit accounts as soon as you believe someone compromised any of your personally identifiable information.
- Report any misuse of your identity to the local police and the Federal Trade Commission.
- Alert stores or other businesses where someone used your identity fraudulently.
- Your local police department may advise you on more steps to take when you report identity theft. Getting a letter from the police to show any businesses that claim you're defaulting on payments or have outstanding bills due that are the result of fraud is essential.
By creating an account on ssa.gov, you may block electronic access to anyone trying to access your number through the federal website and view your lifetime benefits to ensure that no one else has been using your number.
Another federal government website, myeverify.gov, allows individuals to freeze their social security numbers to avoid misuse in employment applications.
What Does Freezing Your SSN Mean?
For most people, freezing their social security number means stopping inquiries on credit reports. Inquiries are the way banks and others evaluate people before loaning money. No one can access your credit if your social security number is frozen. To freeze your social security number in this way, contact the major credit reporting agencies (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian) to freeze your account. Each agency must allow individuals to freeze and unfreeze their credit as the individual sees fit, according to law.