President Obama recently signed a bill that will forbid the use of SSNs on Medicare cards. The law was adopted with broad bipartisan support. Its main function is the change the way doctors are paid for treating Medicare patients, but one section of the bill states clearly that SSNs must not “be displayed, coded or embedded on the Medicare card.”
“The Social Security number is the key toidentity theft, and thieves are having a field day with seniors’ Medicare cards,” said Representative Sam Johnson, R-Texas, who pushed for the change with Representative Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas.
Medicare cards, which come with instructions stating to, “Carry your card with you when you are away from home. Let your hospital or doctor see your card when you require hospital, medical or health services under Medicare,” are the antithesis of identity theft protection, going against all the rules that say that no one should ever carry their SSN on their person. Fortunately, this bill will put an end to that source of SSN ID theft .
However, there remain other ways criminals can get their hands on your SSN. Here are a few of the most common ways that SSN identity theft takes place:
- Tax documents: If you file your taxes by mail you may be sending off documents full of sensitive information into the hands of complete strangers. Many fraudsters simply check mailboxes for outgoing tax documents. However, the mail isn’t the only way criminals can find out your SSN. Phone scams have increased, with thieves posing as IRS employees, calling up individuals and requesting they provide information like their SSN or face their tax return being rejected. Remember, the IRS conducts all important correspondence via mail. It’s also a good idea to e-file your taxes to avoid mail theft.
- Sharing information: It appears that everyone needs your SSN number these days, from cable companies and realtors to insurance companies and government agencies. Many people hand over their SSN without thinking twice. However, it is important to note that not all institutions have the right to request your Social Security number. By law, banks, employers, the IRS, police and health administration companies are allowed to ask for your SSN details, but very few other companies can demand that you share such information with them. If there is an option when filling a form that says you are not required to share your SSN, don’t share it. The fewer places that have your SSN the better.
- Banking: Banks are still allowed to request SSN details and use that information to comply with Know Your Customer regulations, which are put in place to prevent banks from being used by criminal elements for money laundering activities. It’s your right to understand how your bank will protect such sensitive information and what steps they take in the event of a breach.
identity theft protection is a matter of being aware of the most common sources of id theft. Keep your SSN safe by storing your Social Security card in a safety deposit box and not sharing it with organizations unless absolutely necessary.