How to Secure Your Social Security Number

The Agriculture Department had over 63,000 social security numbers exposed on the web since 1996. The security breach was noticed and the web page was removed last week. According to the House Government Reform Committee this has been one of 788 incidents involving the loss or compromise of sensitive personal information since the beginning of 2003.

This information hits a bit of a nerve for me. In 2002 I took an internet course through my local community college. Last month I received a letter from this college informing me that my social security number had been exposed on the Internet for an entire month.

My month of being naked on the Internet seems relatively insignificant to the 11 years of those who received a grant through the Department of Agriculture. However, hopefully what I learned from my experience may be useful in protecting them.

What I discovered was that there are a lot of services out on the Internet who state that they will protect your social security number from being high-jacked. The best site that I found is called LifeLock. I say they are the best because of their superb marketing. The CEO of LifeLock daunts his social security number (457-55-5462) on the front page of his website challenging anyone to steal it.

LifeLock guarantees that nobody will be able to use your social security number without your permission or LifeLock will pay up to $1 million in damages. I had the opportunity to talk with LifeLock in depth and I feel that there service is good. However, instead of paying them you can do what they are doing for free.

All that LifeLock, or anyone else, does is sign you up with fraud alerts with the three different credit bureaus. What you need to do is to call the credit bureas and ask to have them protect your identity. To get started here are there phone numbers:

Equifax (800) 525-6285
Experian (888) 397-3742
TransUnion (800) 680-7289

Each bureau follows a standardized three-step process: 1) They will establish a security alert on your credit file, 2) They will opt you out of pre-approved offers for credit or insurance, and 3) They will mail you a copy of your credit file.

Believe it or not this is exactly what LifeLock does and really nothing more. This makes it so if someone tries to apply for anything using your social security he or she will need to know your security questions. These questions are what you supplied when you created your fraud alerts.

Even the million dollar guarantee isn’t really all that great with LifeLock. Mainly because if someone does high-jack your social security number the credit bureaus are liable not LifeLock. However, if you just don’t want the hassle of making three phone calls LifeLock is a good way to go.

I would recommend that everyone secure their social security number. When we see how often information is continually compromised how can you afford not to?

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