Most likely, you or someone you know has been negatively affected by the Equifax data breach. That's because 143 million, nearly half of all Americans, had sensitive data stolen in the breach. Yikes!
We've already given you important steps that you need complete following this massive breach. However, there is one more thing that everyone needs to do to secure their Social Security number. Click the share button located on the left side of this article to post it on Facebook, it's critical that your friends and family know this information as well.
How to protect your Social Security number
The Equifax data breach is one of the worst of all time. Critical information stolen includes Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and some drivers license and credit card numbers.
With so many people impacted, the Social Security Administration (SSA) is advising everyone to take the following steps to protect their Social Security number.
Open your personal my Social Security account
A my Social Security account is your gateway to many SSA online services. Creating your account today will take away the risk of someone else trying to create one in your name, even if they obtain your Social Security number. Follow these instructions to open your account:
- Click here to visit the my Social Security account home page
- Click the green tab that says Sign In or Create an Account
- Click the Create An Account button
- Scroll through the terms of service, click on the I agree to the Terms of Service button
- Click Next
- You will be taken to a Please tell us who you are page. Fill this information out and click Next. (You may add an extra level of security to your account. Select yes or no, maybe later.)
- Answer the security questions (These can be tricky, if you get some wrong, your electronic access will be suspended for 24 hours. If your account gets suspended, you can call 1-800-772-1213 and ask for the Help Desk for assistance with your account.)
- Select a username and password
Once you've completed the previous steps, your account has been created.
If you already have a my Social Security account but haven't signed in lately, take a moment to log in to take advantage of SSA's second method to identify you each time you log in. This is in addition to the first layer of security, a username and password. You can choose either your cellphone number or your email address as your second identification method.
Using two ways to identify you when you sign on will help protect your account from unauthorized use and potential identity theft. If you suspect identity theft, report it to the Office of the Inspector General and visit identitytheft.gov.
One important note you should know: If you haven't gotten your free annual credit report in a while, now's a great time to do that too. There are many sites that promise you the report for free and then sign you up for other things. Click here to go to the site that really gives your annual credit report for free
What to do if your Social Security number has been compromised
If you know your Social Security information has been compromised, and if you don't want to do business with Social Security online, you can use the Block Electronic Access feature. You can block any automated telephone and electronic access to your Social Security record.
No one, including you, will be able to see or change your personal information on the internet or through the SSA automated telephone service. If you block access to your record and then change your mind in the future, you can contact Social Security and ask to unblock it after you prove your identity. This resource is available to certain victims of identity theft and those who need extra security.
As we said, the Equifax breach is one of the worst of all time. It's very important that you take every precaution to keep your critical data safe. Keep checking in with our Happening Now section for further updates.
Update: We have received email from people who say that you cannot do these steps online if you use a service like Lifelock or have already frozen your credit. You will need to go to a local Social Security Administration office to complete the steps above.