What Happens When You Lock Your Social Security Number?

Social Security lock

Locking your Social Security Number provides an additional layer of security and peace of mind, reducing the risk of identity theft and fraudulent activities associated with your personal information.

If you suspect that your Social Security information has been compromised, you have the option to request to Block Electronic Access. This can be done by contacting the SSA's National 800 number (Toll Free 1-800-772-1213) or their TTY number at 1-800-325-0778. Once you make this request, all automated telephone and electronic access to your Social Security record will be blocked. This means that neither you nor anyone else will be able to view or modify your personal information online or through SSA's automated telephone service. You will need to verify your identity when you make this call.

Alternatively, you can choose to lock your Social Security number by visiting the government's myE-Verify website. The website will guide you through the necessary steps, which include creating an account, entering your Social Security number and date of birth, completing a short quiz, and setting up three "challenge" questions to verify your identity when you need to access your account in the future. The lock will remain in place for one year unless you choose to reverse it. You will receive advance notification when the lock is about to expire so you can renew it if desired.

Now that you've taken the necessary steps to lock your SSN after suspecting it was compromised, what happens next?

Below is a list of the protective measures that come into effect once your SSN is locked:

  • No one can fraudulently obtain a credit card or loan in your name: By locking your SSN, unauthorized individuals are unable to access your personal information to apply for credit in your name.
  • No one can open a bank account in your name: Locking your SSN prevents unauthorized individuals from using your information to open a bank account without your knowledge or consent.
  • No one can commit crimes in your name: By securing your SSN, you reduce the risk of identity theft and potential criminal activity being carried out using your personal information.
  • No one can steal your benefits and Social Security checks: Locking your SSN helps protect your Social Security benefits and ensures that only you can access and receive your entitled benefits.
  • No one can apply for a job in your name: Securing your SSN prevents unauthorized individuals from using your information to apply for employment opportunities under your identity.

When you lock your SSN, you also restrict your own access to it, meaning you cannot use it for any purposes until it is unlocked. For example:

  • You can’t use your SSN to apply for a new job: Once your SSN is locked, you are unable to use it for job applications, ensuring that only legitimate and authorized individuals can apply for employment using your personal information.
  • You can’t use your SSN to apply for credit: Locking your SSN restricts your ability to use it for credit applications.
  • Potential lenders won’t be able to access your credit report or credit score: Creditors, such as banks or credit card companies, use Social Security numbers to assess the creditworthiness of loan applicants. By placing a lock on your SSN, creditors may be unable to retrieve your credit score, potentially resulting in a denial of your loan application. This could hinder your ability to secure a new loan or employment opportunities following the activation of Self Lock.
There are numerous benefits and drawbacks to consider when deciding whether to lock your Social Security number. For what it is worth, it may not be necessary to lock your Social Security number if you do not have any reason to suspect that your identity has been compromised or that you are at a high risk of identity theft.

Can you get a new Social Security number?

If you've tried everything to fix issues caused by someone misusing your Social Security number and they're still using it, the Social Security Administration might give you a new number.

However, you can't just get a new Social Security number if your card is lost or stolen without any proof of misuse, or if you're trying to dodge bankruptcy or legal responsibilities. If you do want a new number, you'll have to prove who you are, how old you are, and your U.S. citizenship or immigration status. 

Unfortunately, according to the SSA, getting a new number won't magically fix everything. This is because other government agencies and private businesses might still have records under your old number, so your credit history might not start fresh. 

And if you do get a new number, don't use the old one anymore. Sometimes, getting a new number can actually cause more problems for identity theft victims. If your old credit info isn't linked to your new number, it might be harder for you to get credit with no history under the new number.

Tips for protecting your SSN

Identity theft is a prevalent issue in the United States, largely due to the widespread practice of requesting Social Security numbers (SSNs) in various interactions. However, before sharing your SSN, inquire about the necessity and security measures in place to protect it. If you suspect that your SSN has been compromised, seek guidance from Social Security.

According to experts at Investopedia, there are nine proactive measures you can take to secure your SSN:
  • Offer an Alternative Form of ID: Consider providing an alternative form of identification when possible.
  • Ask Why They Want It and How It Will Be Handled: Question the necessity and security protocols for handling your SSN.
  • Leave Your Card at Home: Avoid carrying your SSN card with you unless necessary.
  • Shred Mail and Documents With Personal Details: Dispose of mail and documents containing personal information securely.
  • Don’t Use Your SSN as a Password: Refrain from using your SSN as a password for accounts.
  • Don’t Send Your SSN via an Electronic Device: Avoid transmitting your SSN through electronic means.
  • Don’t Give It out to Strangers: Exercise caution when sharing your SSN with unfamiliar individuals or organizations.
  • Monitor Your Bank and Credit Card Accounts: Regularly monitor your financial accounts for any suspicious activity.
  • Consider an Identity Protection Service: Explore the option of using an identity protection service for added security measures.
By implementing these proactive measures, you can enhance the security of your SSN and reduce the risk of falling victim to identity theft.

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