With identity theft becoming a more significant concern for all Americans, it’s critical to safeguard your Social Security number. Thieves may apply for credit and start accounts in your name with only a little identifying information and your Social Security number, ruining your credit very easily.

However, because your Social Security number is sought by so many third parties – physicians, banks, employers, and so on – it may feel natural to give it out, and you may not know how to keep it private.

So here are top five essential ways to keep your Social Security number safe:

  1. DON’T TAKE IT WITH YOU

It is a bad idea to keep your Social Security card in your wallet, handbag, or pocket. Your card can simply be used to conduct identity theft if it is lost or stolen. Instead, practice remembering your Social Security number so that you can recall it when necessary. Keep your card in a secure location at home, such as a lockbox or safe.

  1. DON’T PROVIDE IT TO ANY UNTRUSTED ORGANIZATIONS

While many organizations want your Social Security number, it is not always required. Employers, banks, states, and other bodies that submit information to the Internal Revenue Service may require your Social Security number. However, other parties, such as doctor’s offices, may request it even if they don’t need it (Those enrolled in Medicare may be required to share their identification numbers.

You might consider declining to do so because you aren’t legally compelled to provide your Social Security number with organizations that don’t need it for a valid purpose. While the organization may claim that it is needed, they may be unable to present a good rationale if questioned. Consider telling them you don’t want to give your Social Security number for privacy and security concerns, and see how they react.

  1. Don’t Share It With Unknown Person

Your friends and relatives don’t need your Social Security number for the most part, so don’t give it out unless it’s really required. Neither over the phone nor via email should you give out your Social Security number.

  1. Document Security First

Any documents including your Social Security number should be kept in a secure area at home. When disposing of old personal papers, shred them rather than tossing them away whole, whether they contain your complete Social Security number or not.

  1. Keep An Eye On Your Credit Card Report

Unfortunately, knowing for certain that your Social Security number has never been compromised is virtually difficult. That’s why monitoring your credit is essential – whether on your own or with the aid of a credit and identity theft monitoring service. You can spot warning signs of identity theft by checking your credit report regularly and remediating them as soon as possible.

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