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Avoiding Social "In-Security"

| March 30, 2018
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Identity theft isn’t going away. You click on an innocent-looking link or download what you think to be a document sent by a friend or relative. Days later you learn that your credit card has been used by someone else, accounts have been opened in your name, or perhaps your email id is being used inappropriately without your involvement. Ugh!

We’ve all been told to shred personal documents, avoid clicking on suspicious email links or attachments, and make sure our computer firewall and virus scan software are up to date. Less well known is a one-time exercise that can prevent identity thieves from stealing your Social Security benefits.

What we’re referencing here is establishing your online Social Security account. The obvious reason to set up your account is to manage your Social Security benefits. Less obvious, but perhaps more important in the near-term, is because setting up your own online Social Security account can help prevent your benefit payments from ending up in the hands of identity thieves.

Scammers who have your Social Security number and address, for example, can go online and set up a My Social Security” account in your name if you haven’t already done so.

And if you’re age 62 or older, thieves could start collecting your retirement benefits and you might not find out about it until years later when you actually file for Social Security.

Because only one online account is permitted for each Social Security number, the sooner you establish your account, the more assurance you’ll have that your account won’t be compromised by identify thieves. And if someone tries to access your account, security procedures available to users will notify you.

To set up an account, you’ll need to go to the Social Security website and provide basic identification details. You’ll then be asked a series of multiple-choice questions based on details in your credit report. You may be asked to confirm prior residence addresses, who financed your mortgage, or which credit cards you hold.

Subsequently, as you access your account, the site will implement a two-step log-in process, including sending you a text or email message with a verification code that helps confirm that you are in fact you.

Your online account is the primary way to learn about your benefits or check your earnings history on which your benefits are based. You can use the online service to get an estimate of your benefits, get a benefit verification letter, or change your address or phone number. Additional information about safe-guarding your Social Security account is available on the Social Security website here.

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