Blocking access to a Social Security number is a simple but essential step in minimizing financial damage for victims of identity theft. It also can help shield information for those trying to maximize their privacy. After an SSN has been blocked successfully, protection can be optimized by freezing access to all credit reports.
Reasons to Block an SSN
When a credit card is stolen, illicit activity often can be shut down immediately by cancelling the card. This is not the case with when a Social Security number falls into the wrong hands, as the information can be used repeatedly unless steps are taken to protect these records. In addition to identity theft incidents, access to this information often is blocked in domestic abuse cases to increase the level of privacy for victims. Blocking access to personal and financial information linked to your Social Security number will prohibit illicit or unwanted access to your files, which can prevent someone from stealing government benefits or learning your whereabouts.
Blocking your SSN
Electronic and phone access to SSN information can be blocked by going to the Block Electronic Access page on the Social Security Administration's website. Once there, you'll verify your identification and confirm your intention to block your Social Security number. Blocking your number will prevent access by anyone, including you. If conditions change or you need access to your information, the block can be lifted either permanently or temporarily by contacting the Social Security Administration.
For questions and assistance with blocking your SSN, you also can call the Social Security Administration toll-free at 1-877-772-1213, or visit a Social Security office.
Freezing Your Credit Report
Blocking access to information linked to your SSN may not prevent identity thieves from using it to open fraudulent credit card accounts, apply for medical insurance or borrow money. Freezing your file at Experian, Equifax and Trans Union prohibits third party access to your credit reports, which can prevent illicit accounts from being opened in your name. Freezing a credit report also can shield your address and financial information from other prying eyes. Pre-existing creditors still may access your credit reports for the purposes of monitoring debt, collections and incidents of identity theft.
To freeze your credit files, visit the freeze page on the website of each credit reporting company to find agency and state-specific requirements. Depending on state laws, there may a small fee may be to freeze an account. Generally speaking, these fees are waived if the applicant is over 65 years old or a police report showing identity theft is submitted.
You can also freeze your credit report by calling each credit reporting agency.