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Protecting Social Security Numbers

Be sure to protect your Social Security Card by keeping it at home in a safe location. Any documents containing your number should be stored carefully or shredded. However, no matter how careful you are with your documents, people will still occasionally ask you for it outright. If that happens, follow this sequence to protect it:

1) Ask why they need it

Don't just give it to anyone who asks. It's amazing the places that ask for it that have no use for it at all. I've even been asked for my SSN at a video rental store!

A SSN is used for social security and now, for credit reports. Some non-retailers will still ask to run credit like utility companies because they are essentially entering a credit relationship with you, but for any business that has no legitimate need of your SSN, be as firm as possible about not providing it.

Also, when applying for a job, if they ask for the SSN (which they need to pay you), tell them that you'll provide it AFTER you're hired. In some cases, a credit check is a legitimate part of the hiring process (depending on the job you apply for) in which case you will have to provide it.

2) Ask what happens if you don't provide it

If withholding your number results in not getting service, that's probably fine for some places and not for others. For example, you might need a cell phone for your job and since every cell company asks for a social, you may not have any choice. Move to step 3.

Most places ask for it only as a lazy way of identifying you internally

3) Ask to use an alternate ID

Most places that ask for a SSN do so only for laziness because they want some kind of identifier to distinguish you from other customers. Ask them to use an alternate ID.

4) Hold, freeze, or zero

After getting that far and if the first three options haven't helped you, you'll need to make the decision to withhold the number (despite the consequences) or to protect your SSN another way. Withholding it is pretty straightforward.

The second option is to go ahead and provide it knowing that a credit freeze will protect your credit report. It's still better not to let your SSN be spread around any further than it has to so consider the next option instead.

In cases where legal and ethical to do so, you can try this trick: substitute the middle numbers of your actual social security number with 00. No legitmate SSN has any of the three fields all 0's so this is guaranteed not to belong to someone else. In case you ever have to remember the fake you used before, it's easy because it's simply your SSN with the middle two numbers removed.

Speaking of fake information, check out my guide for building a privacy alias
It's impossible to fully prevent credit card fraud, but there are several things you can do to help.
Social security numbers have become the gateway to all kinds of identity abuses so the less people you give it to, the better.
Your data is as valuable as money so protect it like money!
What do you do once your data is already out there? This.
IDENTITY THEFT
How to Steal Identities - Why It's So Easy
Credit Freeze
Data Defense
Credit Monitoring
Id Theft Insurance
The Identity Theft Victim's Mini-Guide to Recovery
PRIVACY
The Geek Privacy Principle
Nothing to Hide
Data Abuse
RFID - Radio Frequency IDentification
Privacy Alias/Persona
Data Defense
INTERNET SAFETY
Online Addiction
The Consequences of Posting Online
Photo Safety
Tricks and Scams
Account Hijacking
Trusting Companies
PASSWORDS
Bad Passwords
Password Tips and Tricks
Password Protection
Password Mugging
Computer Security
E-mail Safety
Kids and Computers
Shopping Online
Retailers
All About Warranties

How to Stop Credit-Based ID Theft with a Credit Freeze

A credit freeze locks your credit report preventing any thieves from being able to open new accounts in your name. Your credit cards and current accounts work like they always have.

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Protecting Credit Cards

Credit cards are often used fraudulently so do what you can to prevent it.

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Protecting Social Security Numbers

Social security numbers have become the gateway to all kinds of identity abuses so the less people you give it to, the better.

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Being a Data Scrooge

Learn to protect your personal information the way Scrooge did his money.

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Reputation Management

Just because there are things out there about you that are out of your control and are unflattering or worse, doesn't mean you're powerless.

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