Are You Being Tricked into Handing Over Your Social Security Information?

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Written by Guest | August 14th, 2019
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Guest Post by Kayla Matthews

Whether you've realized it or not, you've probably been one of the millions of people to come into contact with scammers. They're the opportunistic criminals who want to trick you into giving away money or information, like your social security number.

If someone came up to you on the street and asked for that information, you'd say no, of course. But that's why scammers employ clever strategies to trick you into giving them what they want.

Lately, more and more scammers have been targeting people via phone calls claiming their social security information has been put on hold. But how would you know to avoid these calls if you aren’t aware of their targeting techniques?

Read on to learn about some of the most frequent scams happening around the world every day and how you can protect yourself.

Learn common scamming tricks

Your social security number is part of your legal identity, but it's also what gets you access to social security benefits after you retire. Because of that, one of the first big scams is an envelope that retirees often receive, informing them of an extra check headed their way.

The envelope contains a form they have to fill out, asking for basic information and the person's social security number. It also requests a filing fee. This is an easy way to spot this particular scam, as the actual Social Security Administration doesn't include an additional charge.

The second biggest scam is a simple phone call, as we mentioned earlier. You might receive news about needing an updated social security card or potential rebates. In exchange, the caller will ask for your social security number. They'll sometimes threaten to seize your bank account, but none of it is actually real.

The last way scammers will try to steal personal information is by emailing you. They'll create an email that looks like it's from the Social Security Administration and provide links to websites they've created to look official. However, the SSA never emails anyone for personal information.

Identify fraud right away

By reading about these examples, you can learn to identify fraud right away.

The biggest takeaway is that the SSA will never ask you for your social security number. That's because they already have it. They also won't ever ask for the entire number, because they can verify the last four digits with the full number they have saved in your file.

They'll also never reach out and ask for money. You pay into the social security system through taxes, so they're already getting what you owe them.

Avoid social security theft

There are a few ways to avoid social security theft if you take a few simple steps to protect yourself.
Scammers will often target a specific area, like a county or city, with one particular scam. In this case, it may take a day or two, but the local news crews should mention any widespread fraud on the news that's occurred and been reported to police.

You can also shred sensitive documents. If you're throwing out tax forms, doctor's office paperwork, or other forms that may have your social security number on it, shred them. Scammers have been known to dig through trash to find what they're looking for.

It's smart to frequently check your credit reports as well. Most credit companies will email or even text you if there's been a breach, but you can be proactive by checking your credit history. If you see any purchases you haven't made, they may have happened because your social security number was stolen.

Practicing these safety measures are a great way to avoid social security theft. Learning about what scams look like and how they trick people into giving away private information will get you ahead of the game and avoid future theft.

Kayla Matthews, a tech and security journalist, has written articles for sites including WIRED, Information Age, Security Boulevard, and the National Cyber Security Alliance. To see more of her work, follow her on Twitter @KaylaEMatthews or check out her tech blog, Productivity Bytes.

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