The recent Equifax data breach compromised the personal information of as many as 143 million Americans. It brought even more renewed attention to the fact that people need to take steps such as placing credit freezes to prevent their information from being stolen and used to their detriment until they are sure their personal data has not been compromised. Identity theft continues to be a huge problem, despite advances in security and protection for consumers.
If you expect to draw benefits from Social Security, or you’re already getting a benefits check, there is an additional step you should take immediately to prevent from becoming a victim of identity theft.
If you have not done so already, open up a my Social Security account
In theory, a thief could use your stolen information to create an online Social Security account and file for benefits without your knowledge. They could direct those benefits to a new address and collect them for many years before you find out. When you decide you want to file for benefits, you could learn that you have supposedly been receiving them for a long time.
With your publicly available information, plus data stolen from the Equifax breach (Social Security number, address, driver’s license and credit card numbers), identity thieves could have enough information to set up an online Social Security account. To prevent this from happening, you need to open your own online Social Security account.
By opening up a my Social Security account, you are taking an important step in protecting your personal information, and also preventing anyone else from hijacking this critical point of contact for your Social Security benefits.
To create a my Social Security account, you will need to provide some personal information about yourself and provide some answers to questions you are likely to know. Next, you will create a username and password and then activate your account by receiving a one-time security code that you will need to enter on the site within 10 minutes after you receive it.
Keep your Social Security user name and password in a safe place
Social Security has a high level cyber-security system, but keeping your user name and password in a safe place is probably the biggest thing you can do to ensure your account information is not compromised.
When you first create an account, you should also consider adding a second method of identification to your my Social Security account. Individuals seeking this extra security will need to answer a financial verification question involving their credit cards or tax forms. If you already have an account, you should consider signing up for extra security to further protect your personal information.
Only you can create an account using your own personal information and for your own exclusive use. You are not allowed to create an account for another person, even with their written permission. Unauthorized use of your account, or if you use another person’s account is a misrepresentation of your identity and could subject you to criminal or civil penalties.
If you have a security freeze or a fraud alert on your credit report, perhaps due to a reaction to the Equifax breach, you can still open a my Social Security account, but you must do so in person at your local Social Security office. Another way to open an account is to temporarily life your freeze or fraud alert and create your account online, and then reinstate the freeze or fraud alert if you so choose.