For some reason, social security numbers became an easy way to identify individuals. I believe this is because it is a unique number that most people would have memorized. There are legitimate reasons to give out your social security number but those lines are blurred. The only reason social security numbers are given out in the first place is to track the earnings of the workers. With this number, the government will track how much you make and tax you accordingly. In fact, there is nothing special about the number other than it was assigned to you. The numbers go in order. For example, let’s say your social security number is 001-01-0001. If I was the next person in line, I would be 001-01-0002. You can take you current social security number and add a one to it and you have new social security number. This should paint a clear picture of how easy it is to generate a social security number. The use of the number evolved into something unexpected but yet logical. We give it out to so many different situations. I recall being asked to provide it get a library card, as my user ID to log into my university’s website and as a login to clock my hours at work.
Bottom line, don’t give out your social security number unless you absolutely have to. Don’t give it out over the phone, especially to a stranger for any reason whatsoever. If you know the person or they have identified themselves and it’s absolutely necessary for you to provide it, make sure no one is around. Do not give your social over the phone while at your favorite coffee shop, out shopping or on speaker phone.
Your social security number is yours but a simple typo could tie someone else’s name to it. I applied for a credit card to save 20% off a large purchase only to receive the card with my name miss spelled on it. I still see it pop up as an alias when I buy a home or refinance. It could also be deliberate. When I was in high school, I had friends that were illegal. They were good people that wanted to work to help their families get by. I wanted to help my friends so I made photocopies of my social security card and with a little work (and a copy of a copy of a copy) I was able to replace my name with theirs on the photocopy. I then took a photocopy of the photocopy. I repeated this a few times for each of my friends. They used to photocopy to get work. Back then, I just wanted to help a few friends but when I look back, I realize just how easy it was to create an identity. I also realize I should have changed the number and not just the name. The reason that this number is so special is it’s unique and you can’t change it. If your password gets stolen or you forget it, you can always change it or request a new one. If your social security number is stolen there is very little you can do. Preventive security is the best approach.
What you should do
Your social security is out there and it comes in contact with more people than you would want but do not worry too much about it. Technology is improving. Identity thieves need more than just your social security to steal your identity but that does not mean you shouldn’t be careful with it. Do not carry your social security card with you. There are very few times you will be asked for it. The card is valuable because it provides a valid record. With the card, anyone with the same name as you can simply use it to get work which makes the card an easy sale to someone who is just trying to feed their family in the new world. Keep it in a safe place. I would recommend a safety deposit box or a safe at home.