Your social security number has become a very valuable and profitable piece of information for identity thieves. Guard your social security number for theft protection.
When social security numbers were introduced in the 1930s, they were not intended to be used for identification. They were made to track how much money people made and to calculate benefit levels. Some early cards even said “For social security purposes, not for identification” on the front of the card. Our government started using these numbers for identification in the 1960s, and as that was not their intended purpose, it is not surprising that they are not the most secure identifiers and they offer little protection from theft. Once your social security number is stolen, it is very difficult to get another one and you usually can’t erase your old one and its credit history.
Eventually, we may have a better way to identify ourselves. Advances in technology – specifically biometrics – has shown promise as a better way to identify ourselves in the future. Biometrics is the use of physiological and behavioral characteristics to identify a person. We are used to seeing doors being unlocked with a palm print or voice recognition in movies, but this technology actually isn’t far off. As biometrics becomes more reliable and less expensive, we are seeing it more in our daily lives. Many mobile devices are unlocked with a fingerprint. Some retailers have tested letting customers pay with a fingerprint. Banks sometimes use speaker recognition to detect fraudsters. They screen calls and try to match voices with known criminals. Seeing this technology becoming more common is exciting. Using characteristics that can’t be lost or stolen as identifiers offers more protection from theft than using a social security number that is easily stolen and can then be sold many times.
While we are still relying on our antiquated social security numbers, protect from theft by guarding your social security number as best you can. Only give it when absolutely necessary, and monitor your credit report. Take precautions while we wait for technology to catch up with identity theft.