Back in the 1930s when Social Security numbers were first introduced, they were not meant to be used as we use them today. However, if you are like most people, you use your SS number constantly; it might be at the bank, the doctor’s office, or somewhere else. You need to use a SS number to get a job, to open a credit or bank account, and even to get married. Since we use this number so often, what happens if your card is stolen or lost? This is what to do:
Put a Fraud Alert on your Credit Report
First, you want to put a fraud alert on your credit report by contacting all three major credit bureaus. When you do this, lenders and creditors use very strict guidelines when they screen any application with your information on it. These alerts last for a year, but you can get an extension when that year has passed.
Freeze Your Credit
If you want to get even more secure, think about freezing your credit. When doing so, you cannot use your credit for things like refinancing or opening a new credit line until you lift the freeze, which is good, because neither can a criminal.
Consider ID Theft Protection
If you can afford a couple of hundred dollars a year, you should consider ID theft protection. This ensures that your credit is monitored 24/7 by a team of experts who can also help to restore your credit if someone steals it.
Watch Your Credit Report
Even if you freeze your credit or get a fraud alert, that doesn’t mean that you are all in the clear. Thieves can definitely steal your identity in alternative ways. So, it is very important that you watch your credit closely. You can get a free report online at AnnualCreditReport.com or with some identity theft protection plans you can get access to credit reports once a month.
Be Smart When Online
Finally, there are some tips and tricks out there that cybercriminals use that people fall for all of the time:
- Don’t click on any link in email, even if you think it’s from someone you know. At least call them to see if the link is legit.
- Don’t open emails that look sensational or have a subject with a sense of urgency.
- Don’t go in and click around on emails in your spam folder.
- If you can use two-factor authentication, do it.
- Use an antivirus program on all of your computers.
- Shred personal documents before you throw them out. This is especially the case if they have personal information like a Social Security number or account number.
- Only use long-hard-to-guess passwords for all of your accounts.
- Don’t give out your Social Security number unless it is totally necessary.
Written by Robert Siciliano, CEO of Credit Parent, Head of Training & Security Awareness Expert at Protect Now, #1 Best Selling Amazon author, Media Personality & Architect of CSI Protection Certification.