Protect Your Social Security Number | SunTrust Resource Center

ID Theft and Fraud Protection

Protect Your Social Security Number

Your doctor's office, your employer, the DMV -- they all want your Social Security number. But the group that wants it most? Identity thieves.

Social Security numbers are "the crown jewel of information" for thieves, says Neal O'Farrell, executive director of the nonprofit Identity Theft Council, which provides support to people whose identities have been stolen. A thief can take that nine-digit number and open a line of credit, file for a tax refund or apply for a job -- all in your name.

"Last year alone, thieves stole about $5 billion just through identity theft-related fraudulent tax refunds," O'Farrell says. "It's very easy to do." To make matters worse, arrested identity thieves may give police their assumed identity -- so victims end up not just with bad credit, but with an arrest record too.

But how do identity thieves get a hold of that valuable number? The old-fashioned way is to steal someone's mail. This still happens, says O'Farrell, and some street gangs even specialize in this activity. But data breaches affect far more people: Over the past five years, an average of one reported data breach has occurred every day in the U.S., with some affecting millions of records.

To protect your Social Security number -- and yourself against identity theft -- follow these three steps:

1. Freeze your credit

A credit freeze prevents anyone from opening a line of credit in your name unless you remove the restriction. Existing creditors will still generally be able to check your credit.

To create a freeze, you'll need to contact the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. A small fee typically applies to freeze or un-freeze credit, so this may not be the best option if you apply for credit frequently. Freezing your credit also prevents potential employers from checking it, so you might wait if you're on a job hunt.

2. Monitor your credit report closely

Each of the three credit agencies is required by law to provide one free credit report per year at annualcreditreport.com. Stagger your requests so that you get a picture of your credit every four months.

3. Try not to give out your Social Security number

Some people, such as your doctor or accountant, really do need your Social Security number. Otherwise, says O'Farrell, refuse "for as often and as long as you can." If you must give the number, it's worth asking about security measures:

  • Are background checks required for their employees?
  • How good is their network security?
  • What are the office policies for sharing information?

No one is completely safe from identity theft. But these simple precautions can dramatically reduce your risk.

This content does not constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment advice. You are encouraged to consult with competent legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment professionals based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability for your use of this information.

Related

Investment and Insurance Products:

Are Not FDIC or any other Government Agency Insured   Are Not Bank Guaranteed  May Lose Value 

© 2018 SunTrust Banks, Inc

equal housing logoSunTrust Bank is an Equal Housing Lender. Member FDIC

equal housing logoEqual Housing Lender. SunTrust Mortgage, Inc

SunTrust, SunTrust Mortgage, SunTrust PortfolioView, SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, SunTrust Premier Program, AMC Pinnacle, AMC Premier, Access 3, Signature Advantage Brokerage, Custom Choice Loan and SunTrust SummitView are federally registered service marks of SunTrust Banks, Inc. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

Services provided by the following affiliates of SunTrust Banks, Inc.: Banking products and services are provided by SunTrust Bank, Member FDIC. Trust and investment management services are provided by SunTrust Bank, SunTrust Delaware Trust Company and SunTrust Banks Trust Company (Cayman) Limited. Securities, brokerage accounts and insurance (including annuities) are offered by SunTrust Investment Services, Inc., a SEC registered broker-dealer, member FINRA, SIPC, and a licensed insurance agency. Investment advisory services are offered by SunTrust Advisory Services, Inc., a SEC registered adviser. GFO Advisory Services, LLC is a SEC registered investment adviser that provides investment advisory services to a group of private investment funds and other non-investment advisory services to affiliates. Mortgage products and services are provided by SunTrust Mortgage, Inc.

SunTrust Mortgage, Inc. - NMLS #2915, 901 Semmes Avenue, Richmond, VA 23224, 1-800-634-7928. CA: licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Residential Mortgage Lending Act, IL: Illinois Residential Mortgage Licensee #MB-989, Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, 100 W. Randolph, Suite 900, Chicago, IL 60601, 1-888-473-4858, MA: Mortgage Lender license #-ML-2915, NJ: Mortgage Banker License - New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance, NY: Licensed Mortgage Banker—NYS Department of Financial Services, and RI: Rhode Island Licensed Lender.

"SunTrust Advisors" may be officers and/or associated persons of the following affiliates of SunTrust Banks, Inc.: SunTrust Bank, our commercial bank, which provides banking, trust and asset management services; SunTrust Investment Services, Inc., a registered broker-dealer, which is a member of FINRA and SIPC, and a licensed insurance agency, and which provides securities, annuities and life insurance products; SunTrust Advisory Services, Inc., a SEC registered investment adviser which provides Investment Advisory services.

SunTrust Private Wealth Management, International Wealth Management, Business Owner Specialty Group, Sports and Entertainment Group, and Legal and Medical Specialty Groups and GenSpring are marketing names used by SunTrust Bank, SunTrust Banks Trust Company (Cayman) Limited, SunTrust Delaware Trust Company, SunTrust Investment Services, Inc., and SunTrust Advisory Services, Inc.

SunTrust Bank and its affiliates do not accept fiduciary responsibility for all banking and investment account types offered. Please consult with your SunTrust representative to determine whether SunTrust and its affiliates have agreed to accept fiduciary responsibility for your account(s) and if you have completed the documentation necessary to establish a fiduciary relationship with SunTrust Bank or an affiliate. Additional information regarding account types and important disclosures may be found at www.suntrust.com/investmentinfo.

SunTrust Robinson Humphrey is the trade name for the corporate and investment banking services of SunTrust Banks, Inc. and its subsidiaries, including SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., member FINRA and SIPC.