Top 6 Tips for Protecting Your Social Security Number (SSN)

Top 6 Tips for Protecting Your Social Security Number (SSN)

5 Min.

Identity theft is a growing problem in the United States, partly due to the widespread use of Social Security numbers (SSNs) in various interactions. Originally, SSNs were not meant to serve as a universal primary identification, but over time, they have become exactly that. Fortunately, individuals have multiple options to shield their SSNs from potential identity thieves.

Ensuring the security of your Social Security number (SSN) involves controlling its distribution. It's advisable to limit the number of entities with access to your SSN. Avoid sharing your SSN solely based on a request; always inquire about the purpose and protective measures in place. In the event of a suspected SSN compromise, seek guidance from Social Security.


The necessity of providing your Social Security number (SSN) varies among entities. Typically, organizations that report your data to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) require your SSN, such as your employer, financial institutions, the U.S. Treasury for savings bonds, state unemployment insurance, and workers’ compensation offices.

However, many other entities have the right to request your SSN but often don't truly need it, and you are not legally obligated to furnish it. It's important to note that, starting from January 1, 2020, Medicare has transitioned away from using SSNs for identification. Instead, Medicare beneficiaries are issued a unique Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) consisting of numbers and letters, which should also be safeguarded against identity theft.

Tips for Safeguarding Your SSN

1.Offer an Alternative Form of ID: When asked for your SSN, suggest using your driver’s license number or other valid identification, like a passport, utility bills for address proof, or a student ID from a college or university.

2. Ask for Clarification: If the entity insists on your SSN, inquire about the necessity and security measures. Questions to consider include: 

  • Why is my SSN required? 
  • How will you protect my SSN? 
  • What is your privacy policy, and can I review it? 
  • Do you provide liability coverage in case of theft or compromise?

3. Secure Your SSN: Avoid carrying your Social Security card in your wallet or entering it into electronic devices. Memorize the number and keep the card safely stored at home.

4. Shred Personal Documents: Use a paper shredder to dispose of papers containing your SSN or other personal details. Avoid leaving mail in an outdoor mailbox for extended periods to prevent theft.

5. Use SSN Wisely: Never use your SSN, in whole or part, as a password. Refrain from sending your SSN via electronic devices, and avoid giving it to strangers over the phone, through unsolicited emails, or on the Internet unless necessary.

6. Monitor Your Bank and Credit Card Accounts: Remain vigilant about monitoring your bank and credit card accounts for unusual activity and consider identity protection services for added security. 

Don't forget to protect your child's SSN as well, especially at places like the doctor's office. Fortunately, most medical facilities accept an insurance account number instead of your SSN or your child’s.

Actions to Follow If You Suspect You've Fallen Victim to a Scam

The Social Security Administration offers a helpful booklet titled "Identity Theft and Your Social Security Number," which contains valuable information about protecting your SSN and what steps to take if it's compromised.

1. Contact Social Security Administration (SSA): Reach out to SSA online or through their toll-free number, 800-772-1213.

2. Contact Medicare if Your MBI Is Stolen: Even though Medicare no longer uses SSNs and has introduced the Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI), it can still be a target for fraud. Contact Medicare if you suspect MBI theft.

3. Request a Social Security Earnings Review: Occasionally, multiple individuals might accidentally or intentionally use the same SSN. Contact Social Security to request an earnings review or use the online account feature.

4. Check Employer Verifications at My E-Verify: Visit the myE-Verify webpage to verify the names of employers who have confirmed your eligibility to work in the U.S. This helps detect unauthorized use of your SSN for employment.

5. Visit for a Recovery Plan: Visit or call 877-438-4338 (877-IDTHEFT) to report identity theft and set up a recovery plan. This includes contacting affected companies, placing fraud alerts, obtaining credit reports, and reporting to law enforcement (optional).

6. Contact the Internal Revenue Service (IRS): If you suspect tax fraud or unauthorized use of your SSN for work, reach out to the IRS through their website or by calling 800-908-4490.

7. File an Online Complaint with the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3): Report suspected criminal activities related to your identity at the IC3 website, allowing appropriate authorities to investigate.

8. Consider Applying for a New SSN (as a Last Resort): If all else fails and someone continues to misuse your SSN, consider applying for a new one through SSA. Be prepared to prove your identity, age, and citizenship, and be aware that this may not resolve all issues.


Safeguarding your Social Security number (SSN) is essential in today's climate of increasing identity theft. SSNs were never intended for universal use but have become a primary identifier. To protect your SSN, limit its distribution, offer alternative forms of ID, and inquire about its necessity and security when sharing it. 

Secure your SSN physically and online, shred personal documents, and avoid using it as a password. Vigilance in monitoring accounts and considering identity protection services is crucial. Protect not only your SSN but also your child's, particularly in healthcare settings. If you suspect a scam, take immediate action by contacting relevant authorities, and as a last resort, consider applying for a new SSN while recognizing that some institutions may still have your old number on file.

Social Security Number (SSN)
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