Think you’re safe posting basic information about yourself on Facebook, MySpace, or other social networking sites? Guess again.
8.5% of the social security numbers of people born since 1989 can be successfully guessed by computer programs using information from your social networking sites and other public sites.
What many people do not know is that social security numbers are not random. The first three digits are part of the zip code where you received your social security number. So, listing your hometown on Facebook and other sites is a generous tip to identity thieves.
The middle two digits are determined by where and when you applied for your social security number.
The last four digits are supposed to be random but tend to be in sequential order. So, if you give your birth date online, you have given the con artists another tip.
For new social security numbers all nine digits will be more random. For those of us who have had our social security numbers for quite some time, we’re stuck with them, and we need to guard them carefully.
Some tips for protecting your social security number are:
- Don’t carry your social security card nor have the number printed on your driver’s license or checks.
- Give your Social Security number only when absolutely necessary, and ask to use other types of identifiers.
- If your state uses your Social Security number as your driver’s license number, ask to substitute another number. Do the same if your health insurance company uses your Social Security number as your policy number.
- Don’t carry your birth certificate, passport or extra credit cards, except when necessary.
- Tear and shred all items with your social security number and other personal information on it.
- Check your credit report annually.