What Can a Scammer Do With The Last Four Digits of Your SSN?

an example of an SSN

In recent years, there has been a growing concern among individuals who have unknowingly provided the last four digits of their Social Security numbers to scammers. Many have turned to platforms such as Reddit and Quora seeking answers on whether this information alone is enough for scammers to steal their identities.

Some individuals have shared their perspectives, suggesting that worrying about identity theft solely based on the last four digits of your SSN is a futile endeavor. The reality is that there are numerous sources where your personal data can be accessed. Whether you have applied for a job, served in the military, received medical treatment, applied for a loan, filed taxes, or set up financial accounts, you have likely provided all the necessary information for someone to potentially steal your identity. Every employer you have worked for, past or present, possesses this information. 

Additionally, any individual with access to your personal data, such as government employees, could potentially misuse it. While some argue that having your name and the last four digits of your SSN may not be sufficient for scammers to cause significant harm, others believe that this information could be used as a starting point for illicit activities.

However, in my humble opinion, if a scammer requests the last four digits of your SSN, it is likely that they already possess additional information about you and are seeking to complete the puzzle. If successful, the consequences could be severe, leading to identity theft and illegal access to your financial assets, including credit cards, loans, bank accounts, and tax refunds. Further, just because financial institutions have the last four digits of your SSN does not justify sharing it with unknown parties. These institutions obtain your information through legal means and for legitimate purposes, unlike scammers who have malicious intent.

Can a Scammer Still Your Identity With The Last Four Digits of Your SSN?

By all accounts, it is highly improbable that a scammer can fully steal your identity with just the last four digits of your Social Security Number. However, these digits are sometimes used for verification purposes, making it crucial to keep them confidential. As I pointed out earlier, if a scammer requests this information, it is likely they already possess additional details about you and are attempting to piece together the puzzle.

According to a Forbes article, your Social Security Number is intricately linked to your banking and credit history, designed to remain with you for life. If a cyberthief obtains your name, address, and SSN, they are dangerously close to stealing your identity. Moreover, the U.S. Government Publishing Office advises caution when disclosing the last four digits of your SSN.

The last four digits of your Social Security number are commonly use as an identifier during telephone interactions with banks and other financial institutions. Therefore you need to be aware that individuals who possess both your account number and the last four digits of your Social Security number could potentially manipulate their way into gaining access to your bank account over the phone through a process known as "social engineering." 

While the likelihood of this occurring is low, the risk still exists. It is crucial to remain vigilant when it comes to monitoring your accounts and to educate yourself on the significance of never disclosing such sensitive information to anyone unless you are certain of their identity and the reason for their request.

If you have given out the last four digits your SSN and are concerned about identity theft, it is advisable to regularly monitor your credit report and consider using identity theft protection services.

Scammers May Attempt To Hijack Your Phone With The Last Four Digits of Your SSN

One sneaky way criminals can steal your phone number is through a porting-out scam, also known as a SIM swap scam. Basically, scammers get a hold of your personal info through phishing emails, buying it off the dark web, or by straight up tricking you. Once they have enough info, they contact your phone provider and sweet talk them into transferring your number to their SIM card. They might pretend to be you, saying they lost their phone and need the number switched over. 

However, phone companies have put in place measures to protect your account, like setting up a PIN or password. And since almost every US citizen and permanent resident has a Social Security number, it has become the preferred method of authentication for cell service providers. Nevertheless, scammers who have enough of your personal info can still take over your phone number and steal your identity. 

These scammers try to get details like your name, address, birth date, PINs or passwords, and the last four digits of your Social Security number. They might pretend to be a trusted business or institution when they call you, asking a bunch of questions to gather as much info as they can. Sometimes, they already have your info from the dark web.

Sometimes, telecom employees are in on it and change the SIM numbers themselves. Once they've got your number, they can intercept all your texts and calls, including those one-time passwords for two-factor authentication. This means they can hack into your bank account, social media, or any other account tied to that number. It's a scary scam that can lead to stolen funds, extortion, or even identity theft.

Loss of service on your device, such as your phone suddenly going dark or only allowing 911 calls, is often the initial indication that you may have fallen victim to a porting-out scam. If you suspect that this has occurred, you need to take swift action by reaching out to your phone company, as well as contacting your bank and other financial institutions. Furthermore, it is recommended to file a police report and place a fraud alert on your credit reports. Be sure to obtain copies of your report for documentation purposes.

Stop giving out the last four digits of your SSN

You need to be cautious when it comes to sharing the last four digits of your Social Security number. There is no need to carry your social security card in your wallet, as no travel agent or loyalty program requires this information. It is also unnecessary to provide the last four digits of your SSN to a car rental agency. Scammers may attempt to deceive you into disclosing your full SSN or the last four digits through online or phone scams. Never give out your personal information to individuals who contact you via phone calls or email and request it, even if they claim to be from a reputable institution such as a bank or credit union. 

While there are instances where you may need to share your SSN, such as when applying for a job, selling items on eBay, or seeking medical treatment, it is important to question why this information is necessary. You can inquire about using alternative forms of identification, how the information will be used, how it will be safeguarded, and the consequences of refusing to provide your SSN.

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