Reciting the last four digits of your social security number has become customary. It’s almost automatic as many businesses request it to verify identity (in person and by phone). Something we’ve learned to view as harmless could cause a lifetime of damage. Cases of identity theft are rising each year.
In 2017 identity theft reached an all time high. A study by Javelin Strategy & Research reported 1.3 million victims had a loss of nearly $17 million. Cyber attacks and data breaches from big name companies were frequently a part of media reports.
Hackers were successful at stealing credit information in the hundred millions from one top credit bureaus. That should be a lesson that there’s no such thing as being too cautious.
After learning what can someone do with the last 4 digits of your social security number, you’ll view things differently about protecting that information.
The full 9-digit number started as a way to track social security tax contributions and benefit distributions. Over time, things evolved for the numbers to serve more purposes. Federal agencies started using them as identification numbers and the IRS began using them as TINs. Now, it seems everyone uses the number weather warranted or not.
The last four digits of your SSN are the most unique part of it. There’s some other information you should know about what can someone do with the last 4 digits of your social security number. Older ones are connected to the address on the paperwork when you first applied. Any number issued prior to 2011 has the first three digits based on the mailing address zip code on the SSN application.
What this means is even though most ask for the last four of your social, the first five are easiest to figure out. If the social security number is the gateway, the last four digits are the key that unlocks the door. It wasn’t until 2011 that the administration took more random approach with issuing numbers.
The first step is to know your rights. Not all businesses need any part of your social security number. Places like medical facilities and school have no reason to obtain social security numbers. Those facilities and other businesses who ask for it don’t have the legal grounds either. The fact that it’s become so loosely requested and provided makes a criminal’s job easy.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Rattling off your social security number has been a habit for so long, it seems natural. Most don’t even question why the business needs the information. If you feel uneasy about giving any part of your SSN, ask the reason why they need it. This is also the time to express your concerns. Tell them why you’re reluctant to take such a risk.
It’s okay to decline. You can always say no. Tell them you don’t wish to share sensitive information of that kind. Knowing what can someone do with the last 4 digits of your social security number, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Declining to give the information might mean not receiving the service, but it’s not the end of the world. It’s definitely not worth losing your identity.
Don’t make a criminal’s job easy. A thief discovering your social security number is the gateway to more sensitive information. From there, hackers can find your date of birth, address, account numbers, and employer information. They can also gain information about your business.
It’s hard enough to build business credit and secure funding. Imagine taking on the challenge with ruined credit, identity theft, and an extra by PIN number for life. You can explain as much as you want, but lenders don’t have to care. At the end of the day, those digits are connected to you and your activities.
On the brighter side of things, protecting your social security number increases your chances of getting funding. In the beginning phases of business, your personal credit is the leg your financing opportunities stand on. That’s why maintaining good credit history is critical. Keeping those four digits sacred should be a part of your strategy.
1. The AARP suggests not carrying around your social security card. Many people request some alternative form of identification. Your SS card should be the last choice. Keep that document safely stored away until an authorized agency specifically asks for it.
2. Don’t use the numbers as any other type of password or identification. Criminals are clever. They’ll try to use any numbers attached to you to unlock more of your information. Think about what can someone do with the last 4 digits of your social security number. Keep all parts of your social separate from everything else.
3. Pay attention to your surroundings. Some people don’t even realize who’s watching they’re activities. Someone waiting in the checkout line or sitting at a nearby table could be viewing your information. They may even snap a photo with their smartphone. Guard your information and keep your distance.
4. Be even more cautious on the phone. Most scammers conduct their “business” by phone. It’s easy for them to sound professional and request information without being face-to-face. Do your job of screening the call. Make sure it’s legitimate before answering personal questions. Or better yet, just decline.
5. Protect your credit. If you discover your SSN has been compromised or even suspect it, act fast. Request freeze on your credit report. That will prevent identity thieves from gaining more information or creditors from pulling information. That means thieves won’t be able to apply for credit in your name or shatter your business opportunities.
They can create a new identity at your expense. Someone can get credit cards, loans, and access your cash. They can get medical and government benefits you should have. All the while, you’ll have to clean up the mess. When comparing your full social security number to the last four digits, treat them the same. As a matter of fact, handle the last four with even more care.
If you’ve done a good job of protecting your SSN and building credit, you’re prepared for business funding. Business Financing Hub can help with that. Our website combines years of experience from entrepreneurs eager to help you reach higher heights. Find a wealth of resources on credit building and business financing or get started applying for credit now!