Shopping online has skyrocketed, especially during the global pandemic. In 2020, US consumers spent a staggering $861 Billion (yes, “Billion” with a B!), which was up a whopping 44% over 2019. In fact, on Cyber Monday in 2020, shoppers spent $10.8 Billion – in a single day! That was a new record for online sales.
So, it should come as no surprise that many people are sitting at their computers, tablets, or other devices searching for “must-have” items, from clothing to electronics to HomeGoods to just about anything you can think of. Once they find what they’re looking for, they put the item in their shopping cart, go to “check-out,” and often open a new credit account to pay for their purchase. And that’s where the problem begins.
Cybercriminals are Waiting for that “Click”
The website looks real, and all the appropriate logos and icons are there. So, you begin filling in the requested information, from name and address to phone number and employer. Often you’re asked to fill in your Social Security Number (SSN) as well. Without thinking, many people oblige, lost in the excitement of their new purchase, enter their SSN, and click “submit.”.
And that’s all it takes for a cybercrook to take you on a path that could ruin your life.
The fact is, no legitimate store or website would EVER ask you for your SSN. It’s not done! If you share it, the cybercrook will have the key that’ll unlock all of your financial information, taking you to the proverbial cleaners. They can do everything from opening new accounts at other sites, stores and stealing all of your financial and medical information. It could take months, if not years, to repair the damage they could cause.
In 2019, 3.2 million identity theft and fraud reports were filed, fraud that cost consumers $1.9 Billion. Sadly, SSN theft was the biggest cause. Online phishing sites aren/t the only way cybercriminals can steal your SSN. They also use scam phone calls, pretending to be the Social Security Administration, and lifting information from people search sites. If someone agrees to pay for a background report on you, the SSN is often included. Even if it’s not, there’s enough financial and personal information about you that can lead crooks to your SSN. One way or the other, they’ve got your number, and the damage begins.
One of the best ways to protect yourself from having information taken from people’s search sites is to remove your highly sensitive data from those search sites. But, hundreds of people search sites to monitor, which can easily become a full-time job finding them, searching through them, and then accurately removing key information. It also means that you’d have to manually opt-out of every single search site, and each has its own specific protocols, which can make it quite difficult to do on your own.
There is A Better Way
Instead of manually sifting through hundreds of people search sites on your own, you can have it done automatically OneRep is a leader in finding and scrubbing your sensitive information from the majority of the people-search sites. Don’t mind having a look at their guide on the Social Security people-search related threats. They provide you with complete peace-of-mind knowing that your SSN and other important and sensitive financial information is kept from the eyes of cybercriminals. The keyword is automatic – you don’t have to lift a finger, as OneRep does everything for you. They are constantly monitoring every people search site to protect your information and continually track any new sites that come along.
SSN Stolen? Here’s What to Do
If you suspect that your SSN has been stolen, there are some steps to prevent cybercrooks from using it against you. Start by being vigilant – keep an eye on bank statements, and your social security earning statement. If you see fraudulent activity, report it immediately.
Freeze your credit by contacting the 3 major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. At the same time, place a credit alert on your credit so that government agencies know that your number has been stolen. One additional report to file is with the Office of the Inspector General. You can do this digitally on their website, where you’ll also find all types of additional information and answers to frequently asked questions.
In addition to contacting your local police department, it helps if you file a report with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. This will help you down the road if you end up applying for a new SSN, and it will also be distributed to all the appropriate state and federal authorities.
An Ounce of Prevention
The best protection is to prevent your SSN’s theft as best you can in the first place. This begins by getting that number or other key financial information or personal information that could lead to someone finding your SSN off of people’s search sites. Unless you have loads of spare time to do this manually, along with a lot of patience, use OneRep to have it done for you automatically.
Use common sense – never, ever give out your SSN to anyone other than a bank or accountant in person. No legitimate agency will ever ask for your number, either online, by mail, or by phone. If someone is requesting your SSN, ask what it will be used for and why it’s required. You have the absolute right to refuse.
Also, remember that the Social Security Administration will never call you for any reason whatsoever. You can, of course, call them to ask questions, or you can stop in their offices to review your account. But they’ll never proactively call you for any reason.
You can also request a new SSN. Just be aware that unless you can show proof that your SSN is being used for nefarious purposes, you won’t be given a new SSN. Also, a new number might help prevent more damage in the future, but it won’t help mitigate the damage done by someone using your current SSN.