The U.S. Social Security Administration is increasing security for SSA.gov accounts — but it’s not necessarily enough to prevent thieves from helping themselves to your Social Security payments.
So it’s critical that you sign up for an account before someone else creates an account in your name. If you already have an account, it’s critical that you take an extra step to secure it.
The new security measure for SSA.gov
SSA.gov is the website of the Social Security Administration. It’s also the website through which you can sign up for and access what the administration calls your “my Social Security” account, also referred to as simply an “SSA.gov account.”
This online account enables you to manage certain aspects of your Social Security benefits — from changing your address or phone number, to starting or changing direct deposit of your benefits payments.
Starting June 10, the Social Security Administration “will use a second method to check the identification of my Social Security account holders when they register or sign in,” according to an online announcement. The second method will involve your phone or email address.
Social Security Administration spokespeople tell Brian Krebs — the cybersecurity journalist and author behind the blog Krebs on Security — that this means SSA.gov account holders will receive a one-time security code by text message or email when they register and each time they log in. To access their accounts, users will have to provide that code along with their username and password.
Why you should access your SSA.gov account ASAP
There are a couple of ways you can further protect your SSA.gov account.
First, create an account before a crook who has stolen or hacked your Social Security number or other personal information uses that info to create an SSA.gov account in your name — and then possibly uses your account to divert benefits. Krebs explains:
“Because it’s possible to create just one my Social Security account per Social Security number, registering an account on the portal is one basic way that Americans can avoid becoming victims …”
Second, SSA.gov offers what it calls “extra security,” which you can read more about on the “Privacy & Security Questions” page. The Social Security Administration describes it as “an extra level of protection” — but it’s optional.
So your account can only benefit from this extra security if you create an account and manually enable the extra security. Krebs notes that if a crook beats you to your account, they “won’t go through the more rigorous signup process — they’ll choose the option that requires less information.” He continues:
“That means it is still relatively easy for thieves to create an account in the name of Americans who have not already created one for themselves. All one would need is the target’s name, date of birth, Social Security number, residential address, and phone number. This personal data can be bought for roughly $3-$4 from a variety of cybercrime shops online.”
A third identity theft protection that Krebs encourages is putting a freeze on your credit, but that comes with both pros and cons. So check out “You Can Get Major Fraud Protection With a Credit Freeze, but Should You?” before going ahead with it.
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