Frauds & Scams

Protecting Your Social Security Number from Identity Theft

August 25, 2016 • By

Last Updated: August 19, 2021

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

Deputy Commissioner, Office of Communications


  1. ben

    Another joke from SSA. First it was get a cellphone with TEXTING to securely log into your SS account. Now they say protect your SS# from ID theft. Well one good way would be to take it off your Medicare Card where every doctors office you visit you have to give this #. Doctors office have non vetted personnel which change often. There goes your SS#.

    • Ray F.

      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.

  2. Barloso

    One of the best deterrents to having the SSN misused would be to stop using it as an identifier on Medicare cards!! It took years to get the IRS to take it off the address labels when it sent 1040s to homes. It was unbelievable how long it took to get the IRS to understand privacy rights while it, also, pretended to “educate” folks about keeping their SSN secure. The SSA has done little to get the change made to Medicare IDs so having the SSA do these PR blogs, etc. does little to help resolve the situation.

  3. Mary A.

    I tried to get help via Chat option. I received a call back from a “technical support” person and when I explained that I was having trouble submitting my application she rudely threw me to music on hold where I’ve been sitting over 20 minutes. My application keeps telling me my earnings page is not complete and I have retyped 6 times and still get a ! warning sign.

    • Ray F.

      We are sorry to hear you are having trouble applying online, and regret to hear that we did not provide the level of customer service you expected Mary Ann. If you are still having difficulties completing your application, call 1-800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Representatives can assist you with your application online. If needed, they can also help you schedule an appointment with your local Social Security office. Generally, it is best if you call later in the day or later in the week. Thanks!

  4. drapper

    Get our socials off our Medicare cards NOW!

  5. Sonny B.

    The first step in protecting senior citizens from fraud will be to remove social security numbers from Medicare cards. I was shocked when I applied and my Medicare card was mailed to be with my SS #. Seniors can be forgetful, and it is easy for cards to be lost. So let us fight to have the SS# removed from Medicare Cards. Thank you.

    • Ray F.

      For more than a decade, we and other Federal agencies have recommended taking Social Security numbers or SSNs off the Medicare card. However, the amount of money and effort this would take has prevented it. The good news is that a new Medicare card is coming, one that will no longer display a cardholder’s SSNs. Please contact Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services at 1-800-633-4227 (TTY 1-877-486-2048) for additional information or other questions about this matter.

  6. Tom

    The problem with the social security number was that it was created for just one agency to use….hence the name. The “world” discovered it was the perfect unique identifier. I doubt the agency granted permission for everyone else to use it. If it was used by one agency it would barely (if at all) be a problem. That is why Social Security does not handle non-agency ID theft issues using the number per its web pages-its use was probably never authorized. That said, because it is wide used the agency (and another agency–Medicare) must adapt. However, the number is how all your records are kept by Social Security so you cannot NOT use it officially or on your W-2 forms. There must be hundreds of millions of numbers issued and thousands of people with the same name. You cannot get away from using the full number for official purposes either. However, having read up on ID theft in Forbes and Money magazines, too many people put their numbers at risk by carrying it with them routinely (number one on both their “don’t do” lists. One of the ways to have less government and reduce its costs is to stop creating opportunities to have your own identity taken as all taxpayers have to pay for this. Until Medicare numbers change, that will be hard to do with that card in particular though.

  7. B B.

    I believe the fact that social security numbers appear on Medicare cards makes them more vulnerable. I don’t carry my social security card, but do carry my Medicare card in case of medical emergencies

  8. Sergey L.

    Ernsthaft, ich habe die Identität von Rumänien, wie es ist: die offizielle Medien und Journalisten, die fängt in meinem eigenen Haus und dann Oficializeaza live im Fernsehen und Radio, was ich mache, dass Moment in meinem Einfamilienhaus, maskiert, es ist wahr, das nicht ist, es sagt mein Name live im Fernsehen und Radios. Sie auch Rumänien, Journalisten Ma wirbt die Polizei Abfangjäger ausschließlich über alles, was ich privat mache, ich habe meine ID-Card inklusive, und alle seine Beamten, Journalisten, Fernsehen und Radios der Straße überfallen mich mit einer einzigen europäischen Nummer 112 Krankenwagen, heulen wie verzweifelt Straßen von Bukarest, wenn er mich sieht, wie ich die Straße entlang gehen beansprucht , SPASIBA. Please take action and introduce the death penalty for terrorism in Romania, because it is not possible in the European Union, Romania is out of European Union SPASIBA.

  9. David

    Actually, if we live long enough, the social security number will no longer be the medicare id number:

  10. Suzan S.

    Good idea Lucy, I think you are on the right track!! I too agree that there are way too many ways where our number is exposed, 4 digits would be much easier. Thanks

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