My Social Security is the Right Tool for You
I recently headed to the Social Security office to finally change my name after almost a year of marriage. In the process of completing that change, the administrator that was helping us clued my husband and me in on great new way to protect our identities: my Social Security.
What is my Social Security?
my Social Security is a new online account system available through the Social Security Administration. It’s basically an online portal that tells you anything you want to know about your Social Security number and benefits. It serves a few purposes. But one of the big ones for is the added layer of protection it provides against identity theft.
Social Security identity theft is one of the most frustrating and damaging forms of theft you can encounter. It can be hard to prove you are who you are once someone gets their hands on your number. It can lead to issues with employment and tax identity theft.
Tax ID theft is where someone uses your Social Security number (SSN) to file a false tax return. They file before you do and they get your refund. And you usually don’t know it’s happened until try to file. Then the IRS tells you that you already have filed another return.
However, my Social Security is a service that helps you protect against all of that. You can check your Social Security Statements to see if any activity occurs that you don’t recognize. This could be in the form of higher earnings than what you actually earn. It may also list an employer you don’t recognize if someone applied for a job with your number.
How to Sign Up for my Social Security
Signing up for my Social Security is as easy as signing up for credit monitoring. You answer a few questions based on information contained in your credit profile to verify you are who you are. This helps avoid someone opening a my Social Security account in your name.
- Go to ssa.gov/myaccount.
- Choose the option to create an account.
- Fill in your personal information.
- Then answer a few questions based on information in your credit report; this can include things like:
- the name of the lender who holds your mortgage
- the name of the creditor who holds the card you opened on X date
- the name of a former employer
- the street number where you previously lived
- Choose your login and password – make them as unique and impossible to guess as possible.
What can I do with my Social Security?
If you don’t receive benefits then the main thing you can do with the account is to check your Social Security Statement. Once you sign up, you go paperless which means they send you an email when your statement is available. You check your statement through the account rather than having it mailed. This helps you avoid situations like someone stealing your statement out of your mailbox while you’re at work. It’s one of the ways thieves get your SSN.
You can also request a replacement Social Security card or get a Benefit Verification Letter. This letter states you currently don’t receive benefits; it’s used in mortgage and loan applications.
If you currently receive benefits or have Medicare, you can also get that letter for additional housing assistance and local benefits applications. You can also get replacement cards, including a replacement Medicare card.
3 Additional Tips Identity Theft Prevention Tips for This Tax Season
In case you’re wondering why we published this article now, today marks the start of Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week (Jan 30 – Feb 3). Misuse of Social Security numbers is the leading cause of tax identity theft. So now is the right time to take this extra step to protect your SSN.
Additionally, here are a few other things you should know about filing this year:
#1: File as early as possible
Another ridiculously easy way to prevent tax identity theft is simply to file your returns as early as you can. Once you gather up your W2 statements and 1095 for healthcare, file immediately. It may sound crazy, but filing first is one the best preventative measure you can take. Tax ID theft relies on fraudsters filing a return and receiving your refund before you have a chance to file. You don’t know there’s an issue until you file and the IRS says you already did. Procrastinators are the most at-risk for this type of identity theft.
#2: However, even if you file early, recognize that refunds may be delayed
The IRS recently announced that there would be delays in processing tax returns this year. For most people refunds should be processed in 21 days or less. However, if you claim an Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) then you can expect a delay.
The IRS website says they will release these refunds starting February 15, but that taxpayers may not see the account transfer until after February 27. The later you file, the longer you can expect it to take for your refund to hit your bank account. Again, filing early helps minimize this delay as much as possible.
#3: Only trust official mail from the IRS
The IRS warns taxpayers to be on high alert for tax fraud this year. Tax ID theft is one form, but it also includes fraudulent tax collection attempts. Basically you get a call or an email stating that you owe the IRS and you must act now to avoid serious collection actions. The thieves may even provide all or part of your SSN in an attempt to make the collection notice seem legit. It’s not!
The only way the IRS will initiate contact is through an official letter mailed to your home address. They don’t call people, they don’t shoot you an email and they certainly don’t message you through a social network. If anyone attempts contact in one of those forms claiming to be the IRS, it’s a scam. Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1-800-366-4484 immediately to report the fraud.
Even if you receive a letter that looks legit, take steps to verify that you owe before you do anything else. You can call 1-800-829-1040 to verify with the IRS that you owe federal taxes.
Other helpful resources:
- You can file an IRS imposter scam complaint with the FTC through gov/complaint
- To report tax identity theft, call the IRS Identity Theft Protection Squad at 1-800-908-4490
- File an IRS Theft Affidavit with Form 14309 – you must send it in via mail or fax
- To find more information about tax identity theft: