The Social Security Number (SSN) is the most frequently used record-keeping number in America. It is used to report earnings for future Social Security benefits, by financial institutions and credit bureaus for accounting and data systems, and by government agencies to record Medicare, Medicaid and unemployment benefits. Unfortunately, SSNs are also used fraudulently by ID thieves to get credit and jobs. To protect yourself:
Don’t carry anything in your wallet with your SSN, including your Social Security card, and make sure it is not on your driver’s license. Don’t carry your Medicare or military ID card unless you are going to a new doctor, or going on base.
Question why someone needs your SSN by asking: 1) Why do you need my SSN; 2) How will my SSN be used; 3) What happens if I refuse to provide my SSN; 4) What law requires me to give you my SSN?
Never give out your SSN to someone contacting you by telephone, e-mail or at your door. They may claim to represent Medicare, your bank, or a credit bureau, and then trick you into giving out your SSN.
You may be called by a promoter for the new Medicare drug discount card. Do not give any information over the phone. Ask the company to mail you a package and look for the Medicare-approved symbol. Discount drug card promoters may not contact you door-to-door.
Do not buy a SSN from someone as a way to legalize your immigrant status – it is illegal. If you get a job or buy a house with an illegal SSN, you may lose your job and your house, as well as face prosecution.