Frauds & Scams

Protecting Your Social Security Number from Identity Theft

August 25, 2016 • By

Reading Time: 2 Minutes

Last Updated: November 3, 2023

indentity theftEvery year, millions of Americans become victims of identity theft. Identity theft occurs when someone steals your personally identifiable information and pretends to be you. They can use this information to open bank or credit card accounts, file taxes, or make new purchases in your name.  

It is important that you take steps to protect your Social Security number from theft. If someone obtains your Social Security number, they can use it to get other personal information about you, including your bank or credit information. Someone can steal your Social Security number by:

  • Stealing your wallet, purse, or mail.
  • Obtaining personal information you provide to an unsecured site on the Internet.
  • Rummaging through your trash.
  • Posing by phone or email as someone who needs information about you.

If someone asks for your number, you should ask why, how it will be used, and what will happen if you refuse. Make sure you give your employer and your financial institution(s) your correct Social Security number, so your records and tax information are accurate.

To minimize the risk of identity theft, keep your Social Security card and any other documents that show your Social Security number in a safe place. Do not carry your Social Security card or other documents with you that display your number unless you need them.

If you suspect someone’s using your Social Security number for work purposes, report the problem to us immediately by contacting the Federal Trade Commission. We will review your earnings with you to ensure our records are accurate. You may also verify your earnings were posted correctly with your personal my Social Security account. If you don’t have a my Social Security account, you can create an account today!

If someone misused your Social Security number to create credit or other problems for you, immediately go report the identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission. Their website provides detailed information to help you defend against identity theft. You can reach them by phone by calling 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338); TTY 1-866-653-4261.

You may also want to contact the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and file an online complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Safeguarding your identity and Social Security is of the utmost importance. If you think you’re a victim of identity theft, please act now. For more information, read our publication Identity Theft And Your Social Security Number or visit us online.

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About the Author

Doug Walker, Deputy Commissioner, Communications

Deputy Commissioner, Office of Communications


  1. Laverne

    SS#s are in most public records (courts, deeds etc.) and easy to steal. There is no way to really protect it when every medical facility, employer and government agency has it then you have to call it out to these same places many times whenever you need to work with them.

  2. Steven H.

    I don’t show my Medicare card at doctors’ offices because my Medicare HMO issues its own card that I must use for doctors’ visits. Nonetheless, they still want my SS number also. On the SS card it says it’s not to be used for identification purposes. The HMO handles all billing and payments–not Medicare! If need be, I have both a State and City picture ID card.

  3. HB

    I am over 75 now and during all these years I have noticed that SS# of anybody is so easy to steal. We know office workers in many types of offices can steal them. I heard that call centers of US Banks located in south asian countries have been hacked and information was compromised. The workers then sold packets of 1000 #s or 5000 #s at dollar each . There has to be a better way for SS Admins to safeguard the numbers.

  4. Lucy A.

    Thank you for this important information, I will keep a copy of the tel. nos. and websites you made available. I was wondering why every letter I received from the IRS; whether just follow up info., or instructions, all have my full social security number on it. Why is that? With identity thieves stealing mail, a IRS letter would be a prize to look for. Perhaps the SS no. should be shortened to the last 4 digits.

  5. Joyce

    All well and good, but I have Medicare. Every time I go to a doctor I have to supply my Medicare number, which is basically my Social Security number. There goes my SS# confidentiality.
    My identity was already stolen a couple of years ago ,I think at a health care facility. I will have to deal with the consequences of that for the rest of my life.
    I do take appropriate precautions to protect my SS#, so until you can separate my Medicare ID from my SS ID, please don’t talk to me about taking precautions.

  6. Razan A.

    I am not working now … I stay Home on 8- 16- 2016

  7. Michael J.

    The one real concern I have always had is the information provided to doctor’s offices. The turnover in receptionists and the number of persons having access to personal files makes me wonder just how safe is my social security number.
    It is even printed on the Medicare card.

    • MaryKay P.

      Mr. Wicker makes a very good point! Employees in medical offices, clinics, hospitals, dental facilities, etc. are not bonded. Any one of them could take a patient’s private information @ any time.
      I also have heard of these places disposing of records improperly, leaving all this patient info available for the taking to anyone who happens upon it.
      Wake up insurance companies and Medicare! Please find a better way of identification!!!!

    • Meherwan

      Very true. The only way to protect this widely used number is to prohibit anyone from even asking for it other than legally obligated financial or governmental institutions that are required for reporting purposes.

    • Ray F.

      We understand your concern. Under current law, Medicare providers need to know your Social Security number in order to provide you the benefits to which you are entitled. Generally, they only have to see and verify your Medicare card at the time they provide initial medical services. The Medicare program, including Medicare cards, is managed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Here are some suggestions to keep your personal information safe while using your Medicare card.

  8. Leonard S.

    The IRS is in the process of redacting all Social Security Numbers for all correspondence. There is no reason why the SSA cannot do the same. What is the reason the SSA has not taken this obvious step to secure our information?

    • Meherwan

      Very good point. Similar to credit card account statements, only the last four numbers of the account should be stated: xxx_xx_1234

  9. Jean

    So why does medicare print social security number on their id card? Isn’t there some other account number that could be used?

    • MaryKay P.

      I agree with this. How often are you asked for this? If you don’t carry it with you, what happens in case you need emergency treatment?

      • Diana

        I agree and have been saying this for years!

        • Dave

          Me too, absurd you have to carry your Medicare card to obtain medical attention and there is your full SSN for everyone to see!

        • Mike

          President Obama signed, before may 2015, a bill that requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to issue new Medicare cards that don’t display, code, or embed SSNs. There must not be a way to enforce then Law???

      • John O.

        A hospital will ask for Medicare card but if you don’t have it all you have to do is give them the #. They will call and verify it belongs to you.

      • Ray F.

        For general information about Medicare services, visit

      • Hector

        Nothing. You just die

    • MARTIN


    • Doris

      It’s a crazy thing. I got my Medicare card and it said “carry this card with you when you go out’. I agree with everyone on this comment that it does not make sense for the government to tell you to keep the information private and then at the same time tell you to carry it with you. Hoping for a change to the card!

      • Ray F.

        Hi Doris. New Medicare cards will not display Social Security numbers

        • Mary D.

          Can’t come soon enough!

          • Mary L.

            I agree this is of great concern to me too. Everyone in every medical office has our SS numbers. When are the new cards coming?

          • Ray F.

            Hi Mary Lane. The Medicare program, including Medicare cards, is managed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

        • Mike

          When will the new cards start to be issued for new enrollees? Seems awful slow of the CMS when they are required to do something. They don’t have any problem making and starting rules that I must follow as a provider of medical service. The bill should have had a penalty of non payment of the CMS directors salary if not implemented by 2017

    • Susan

      I agree! Like many others, I was surprised to see my SS# used as my Medicare #. Sadly, I doubt we’ll see a change, since this has been the way it’s worked for years and I’m sure it’s been commented on for as long as that.

      • Ray F.

        New Medicare card will not display Social Security numbers!

    • Rex

      Ditto, most states and other places have switched to “linked” numbers but not the SS number, why can’t medicare be more protective?


    • David

      Because Social Security messed up when they printed everyone’s social security numbers on Medicare Cards.
      However, it will take Social Security millions of dollars to give everyone new numbers for their Medicare cards and they don’t want to spend the money.
      So I guess we are stuck with possibility of someone working in a doctor’s office from copying down the numbers, etc.
      Social Security shouldn’t preach to the choir about securing your numbers.

    • Ray F.

      Hi Jean. The Medicare program, including Medicare cards, is managed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Here are some suggestions to keep your personal information safe while using your Medicare card.

      • Jean

        I don’t know if this is to me or not, but I did try diligently to report and Identity Theft Report in my hometown where it actually occurred. I was hung up on over and over by police offices that should know better. But I was recently informed by a family member they don’t believe it. Well, there you go people that don’t visit with you or talk to you more than once per year when they want to get in your private affairs. I don’t know what to do because I went from a beautiful warm and comfortable home to nothing. I have very clothes, no winter ones, a blanket some man gave me that smells of smoke and I have no money to go have it laundered well enough to rid the blanket of the smell but it does keep me a little warmer. I am very heartbroken that having as many family members with nice homes, plenty of money, clothing, food, and any and all extras that they have no regard to whether or not I even have a hot meal. Unbelievable. I did not cause my theft, some very unkind indiviuals decided because they did not like me that they would do what they could to destroy my life. Way to go, they all draw SSI disability benefits, because they are too fat and lazy to work. No one gives a hoot whether I was alive or dead and have nothing left but this broken computer and broken desk I got out of the trash. Please help before I am homeless once again.

    • marg

      i am 73 years old and i have been asking that same question for many years. i was in the hospital last august in north florida and my information was giving without my permission to cancer company and my idenitity along with others was stolen from this cancer center . i have never been to these drs.

      • Ray F.

        Hi Marg. Generally, reports and investigations of identity theft are handled by the Federal Trade Commission. You can find more information in their website: Or you can call them at 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338).

    • LYNN

      I AGREE!!!!
      This is ridiculous in this day and age!!!!

  10. Razan A.


    • Sonia L.

      You saying something always I have already
      social security number ? that again, I was never get it, your social security Number. because I couldn’t have any credit card, and any
      loan, buy something by credit, and for pay something I must.. all this without Social number I couldn’t anything.
      why so difficult have it for me?! only 4 digital number they want.. I must do something for donation,I really wanted also, but I cannot use my debit card..I have a issue .. because so need have a credit card… for solve to all..

    • Tony S.

      Disability Rate of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015

      Congress must ultimately legislate the Old Age Survivor Disability Insurance (OASDI) tax rate – 2.4% 2016, 2.3% 2017, and 2.2% in 2018 when the disability rate stabilizes after the retirement of all the Baby Boomers. The temporary 2.37% DI tax rate 2016-19 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 is not right. Preventing a premature deficit in the OASI Trust Fund by terminating the temporary 2.37% tax rate in 2019 and reverting to the insufficient current rate of 1.8% fails to bias the tax rate to protect the smaller DI trust fund from abuse. The 2.37% rate alleviates the threat of depletion of the disability trust fund and consequential reduction of benefits. The 2.37% rate does not divide nicely in half for employees and employers and cannot be legislated for everyone’s Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) pay-stub. The 2.37% rate is insufficient in 2016 to pay the 3% Cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) from January 1, 2016. The 2.37% rate is more than is needed in 2017 when savings will be achieved with a tax rate of only 2.3%, going down to 2.2% in 2018, when the disability trust fund again shows a deficit and around 2021 is the first trust fund to be depleted. The disability tax rate needs to express the actual cost of disability with a slight bias to protect the smaller disability trust fund from being prematurely depleted.

      Because of the insufficiency of the 2.37% rate to afford beneficiaries a COLA in 2016 the 2.37% DI tax rate in the Bipartisan Budget Act must pay a 6% COLA in 2017 and 3% COLA every year thereafter. The less expensive and more economically sustainable alternative to a 6% COLA 2017 is a lump-sum back payment for a 3% COLA 2016 and a 3% COLA from current 2015-16 rates in 2017. The ungarnishable backpayment and 3% COLA might promote sustainable economic growth more than a 6% COLA for less. Other settlements that do not make the 3% COLA law must be interpreted as expressions of insolvency. SSA may choose to pay 6% COLA because it is easier and there is enough money either of the two ways the DI tax rate is accounted. All SSA needs to do is agree to pay 3% annual COLA, including the one they failed to pay in 2016, as a matter of law.

      The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 also recidivated by providing special funding for unnecessary disability redetermination propaganda to deprive beneficiaries of their subsistence. The Actuary robbed some people. The information collection form used by psychologists who are normally hired by these congressional campaigns to deprive the people of their subsistence ask Congress only to be abolished under Paperwork Reduction Act -If the collection of information by the agency is unnecessary for any reason, the agency may not engage in the collection of information under 44USC§3508. Disability Determination Services (DDS) are federally funded agencies in every state to whom are sent applications made to local SSA offices. DDS pays for any medical visits they require for their determination. The Internal Revenues Service (IRS) determines monthly substantial gainful income (SGA) amount for statutorily blind individuals for 2016 is $1820. For non-blind individuals, the monthly SGA amount for 2016 is $1130. There is a trial-work period of nine months to provide beneficiaries with incentive to get back to work. The federal poverty line for one person is $990 a month.

      • Tony S.

        Social Security Amendments of January 1, 2016

      • J W.

        How in the World could the Fed Poverty line be $990 per month?! – That is Insane! – 5-years ago it was over $14,000 per year. – What is Congress doing – besides Nothing?! – The Poverty line for an Individual should be at least $1,400 per month minimum!! – And Congress should try to live on $1,400 per month. – What a JOKE our Fed government IS !!

    • Elizabeth B.

      How u apply. It on line with out. Pymt with thm . Put a lock on ur with sum uno know ur by heart put on his joint in come tax with out ur permission . Theft by taken s.s. no . Under my name w . Wrong b.dob .sum time last yr. Like have a block on it . So nobody cant get it . With out mina permission first.

      • vera

        How do you put a lock on ssn

        • Ray F.

          Thank you for your question Vera. If you’re referring to adding extra security to your personal “my Social Security account”, visit our “How We Verify and Protect Your Identity” web page for information. If you’re referring to placing a “lock” on your Social Security number, to help protecting you from employment-related identity theft, please visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Website. We hope this information helps.

          • Zachary L.

            Can anyone tell me if my identity been stolen because i lost my social security card years ago?

          • Ann C.

            Hi, Zachary. Generally, identity theft issues are handled by the Federal Trade Commission. You can find more information on their website: or by calling 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338). To learn more about the steps individuals can take to prevent or resolve issues of identity theft, check out our publication, Identity Theft and Your Social Security Number. We hope this helps.

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