Do you monitor your Social Security number for any signs of fraudulent use? A new survey suggests you think that you should, but you probably don't.
According to the 2018 Capital One Credit Protection and Security Survey, only one in seven Americans uses a service to monitor activity on their Social Security number – but just over half of Americans who don't use a monitoring service think they should use one.
Why is Social Security monitoring so important? Your Social Security number is your most important and most often-used identifier. Criminals can use your Social Security number to apply for credit in your name. Without monitoring services, you may not realize your Social Security number has been abused until you're confronted with major unpaid bills and ruined credit.
Because of their versatility in identity theft scams, Social Security numbers are highly prized pieces of information. Depending on what other information criminals have on you, your stolen Social Security number can be used to open new accounts, acquire medical care, find employment, and alter existing accounts. According to data from Javelin Strategy and Research, hackers stole more Social Security numbers than credit card numbers in 2018 (35% to 30%).
Over half of survey respondents (55%) experienced some type of financial fraud, with 37% of those losing money. Just over one-quarter of the fraud victims cited a negative financial impact. That's probably why so many Americans who don't have a service say they need one.
Social Security monitoring services operate through scanning the credit applications associated with your Social Security number, alerting you whenever an application uses your personal information. Some services also include a pre-emptive scan of the dark web, which has become a clearinghouse for illegal activity and stolen personal information. Even if your Social Security number hasn't been used for fraudulent transactions, it may be available for sale as part of a package to identity thieves.
You should take one extra step in monitoring your Social Security number. By establishing an account at the Social Security website, you can verify that all your earnings are reported correctly and that an identity thief hasn't gained employment using your identity. Otherwise, you'll be responsible for the taxes on the fraudster's earnings.
Monitoring your Social Security number is not enough to fully protect you against fraud. You can, and should, take other preventative measures.
Whether or not you use a service, monitor your credit score and check your credit report regularly for any signs of fraudulent accounts. You can check your credit score and read your credit report for free within minutes by joining MoneyTips. Consider a credit freeze that keeps fraudsters from opening new accounts in your name. File your taxes early to keep identity thieves from filing a fraudulent tax return in your name. Check credit card and bank statements for any unauthorized use of your existing accounts.
There are many fraud protections to choose from. Find the right combination for you and send fraudsters elsewhere to find their victims.
Premium MoneyTips members enjoy added protection from identity theft, including Social Security Trace Monitoring.