This Simple Step Will Slash an Older Adult's Identity Theft Risk

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In the past, the Social Security Administration (SSA) would mail Social Security Statements that reflected work history and showed the estimated amount you would receive from social security, depending on your age when you retired.

Now, in the digital age, the SSA has created a service (MySSA) where individuals can review their social security statement online.

To sign up for this new service, visit the Social Security Administration website and click on the "mySocialSecurity" box in the lower left corner of the page. Once you have set up an account, you can review your statement and apply for social security benefits. If you are currently receiving social security, you can review your benefits and, if necessary, update your deposit account information.

Identity theft risk

Outside of the convenience that comes with managing your information online, there is another reason why you should set up your MySSA account: to prevent an identity thief from setting one up in your name, using your information.

Not long after the announcement of the MySSA program, identity thieves began using it as a tool to access people's social security benefits. All the scammer needs is your name, address, date of birth and social security number, and they can use the system to apply for social security or change the deposit account information on social security payments.

Even if you've never had your identity stolen, don't assume your data is safe. Due to the numerous security breaches in recent years, there is a high probability that your information has already been exposed and is available for sale on the Internet.

Identity verification

To cut down on incidences of these fraudulent practices, the SSA has teamed up with the credit bureau Experian to provide identity verification services to beneficiaries.

When setting up your MySSA account, you will be asked a series of questions based on the data in your Experian credit report. A few examples of questions would be to verify the name of the creditor on your mortgage, or to identify which one of the following addresses is/was your current/prior address. While these are supposed to be questions only you can answer, in this age of technology, most of this information can be found online or in public records.

Prevention tip

What can you do to prevent an identity thief from tampering with your MySSA account?

  • Create a MySSA account. By creating your MySSA account you are preventing an identity thief from doing so using your information.
  • Opt-out of MySSA. If you are not very computer savvy (or you prefer not to have online access), then you can contact the SSA and opt-out of the MySSA program . Doing so prevents you (or an identity thief) from being able to set up an online account in your name. This is a great option for those taking care of their aging parents.

Living in an ever-more-connected digital world means that there are always going to be certain security risks surrounding our personal information. However, you can reduce some of that risk for you and your family simply by setting up a MySSA account or opting out of the MySSA program.

Carrie Kerskie is a sought-after speaker, trainer and consultant on identity theft, fraud and data breach.

Visit Kerskie Group, Inc.

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3 Comments

If you are already receiving benefits it is possible for a thief to change your mailing address, and your direct deposit banking information. A thief did just that and set up the My social security account as if they were my mother. Thieves use an online bank that does not require to be in person to open an account. It has taken me 2 months so far trying to get stolen money refunded back to my mother. If you are taking care of a parent it is necessary for you to become the "payee" on your parents account with Social security, they do not recognize POA. That is the only way that you can make changes to the account. I have a block put on my mother's account so that all changes must be done in person at the SS. Office. My mother is out $8500 so far. I am still waiting on the investigation by SS. I also filed a police report and notified the FTC. Thanks to an open internet I was able to look up who owns the house a t the address used when my mother's mailing address was changed. Also, I searched Facebook and found the person's FB page and their bank routing number told the SS clerk the name of the bank. Be careful and stay alert when managing your parents account. I became complacent because nothing ever changed in my mother's account so I stopped looking at it, now I am scrambling to get the money back.
Carrie Kerskie, thanks for the information :)

One things that I did months ago was *freeze* my credit. Thus, if someone lifts my identity they wouldn't be able to go out and open up a new credit card, buy a car, or apply for a mortgage, etc. It only cost me $10 each for the three major credit bureaus and one can do it easily on-line. It was $30 well spent :)

I learned about that from Clark Howard, who use to have a financial TV show on a CNN/HLN station here in the States.
Thank you !!
Carrie