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Keeping Your Social Security CardSafe and Secure

By Carla Blair

You may think if you have your Social Security number locked in your memory bank – and you definitely should if you’re an adult – that you’re all set and your information is secure, and that you don’t need your Social Security card on hand. But you’re ignoring the fact that if you don’t know where it is, someone else might, and this can be dangerous for your identity and your finances. In order to pre-emptively protect yourself, here’s what you need to know about why it’s important to have your card, how it can be used against you if lost, and what you must do if it is lost or stolen.

Why Your Social Security Card Must Be Kept Secure
Although you rarely need to show your security card it is sometimes required for identification purposes. And in the off chance you forget your number; it comes in handy when applying for jobs, school, housing, and a plethora of other things that require a verification of your identity. You never know when you’ll need to produce a copy of it, and by having it in the same location, it’ll be easier to find when the need to produce it arises. But, the most important part of knowing where it is relates to the fact that if you have the physical copy, no one else does. This doesn’t mean you carry it around in your purse or wallet – as this is just as unsafe as not knowing where it is in the first place. Carrying it around makes it all that much easier to get lost or stolen. But you should have it in a secure place in your home, or in a safe deposit box or somewhere else relatively safe from theft.

How Your Social Security Card Can Be Used Against You
Though, even if you have it in what you consider to be a safe place, it can still be stolen or misplaced by someone else. And what does that mean for you when it happens? Risks to you include someone using your Social Security number to open up credit cards in your name and charge high amounts, or gain access to your bank accounts (see these red flags for identity theft). It also makes it easier in general for identity theft to occur as they can gain access to your credit report which can lead to inaccuracies that take months or years to clear up. Besides risks to your financial wellbeing, it can be difficult to prove who you are if someone else is pretending to be you and in possession of your identification. Also, it can make it tough for you to prove your identity or citizenship when leaving the country or traveling.

What You Should Do About a Lost or Stolen Social Security Card
Because of these risks you should act quickly in the event you notice your card is lost or stolen – which you will do if you know where it is and know it is in a safe and secure place. Start by filing the necessary complaints with the Federal Trade Commission which also offers information on fighting back against identity theft through the guides and materials on its website. Then you should file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center, which will send the case to a law enforcement or regulatory agency when necessary. Then you should also contact the Internal Revenue Service Identity Protection Unit to ensure the Social Security number attached to your tax return is not being misused. After you’ve filed these complaints, watch your bank statements, credit card statements and activity, and credit report to look for suspicious transactions. If you see anything fishy, contact your bank or creditor immediately to authorize a “credit freeze” on your account until you have more information. If you are lucky and your card hasn’t been used to take your identity, just request a replacement card by completing an Application for a Social Security Card (Form SS-5) and following the instructions from the Social Security Administration. Nonetheless, you should still monitor your accounts and credit report for a time period to ensure it isn’t used later on.

With or Without Your Card, Keep Your Number Secure and Silent
No matter what happens to the physical copy of your card, keep your number memorized and store it in a private place to protect your identity and your financial future. Only use it when absolutely necessary, and make sure it is not a scam before you give away this piece of your identity puzzle. Therefore, just as you wouldn’t want to leave your door unlocked for strangers to walk in, you should be just as careful keeping track of this little card.

Carla Blair is a credit expert and featured author for Smart Military Money – a personal finance blog dedicated to the military lifestyle. Carla comes from a military family, and helps veterans and active service members develop plans to rein in their debt, repair their credit, and get on the path to loan prequalification. Follow Carla on Google+.

Views expressed are the personal views of the author, and do not represent the views of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, its employees, its members, or its clients.



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