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.

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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.