Many people are unaware that the last four digits of the SSN (social security number) are the random and most critical of the number. That’s why hackers, identity thieves, and those on the dark web are after these digits.
The first five numbers are indicative of where you received the number and when you got it.
The suggestion is that those in the scamming business only need to figure out where you’re from and your date of birth to determine these five digits.
The last five are not specific to any sequence and are unique, making it necessary that these individuals find a way to get you to give it out.
It’s critical to remember that only specific entities can legally request these numbers. That includes lenders/banks, an employer, Internal revenue service or investment funds, and workers’ comp or other government programs.
When the wrong person gains access to your number, there is a great deal of damage they can do. That includes obtaining medical care using your identity, creating credit accounts, receiving your tax refunds, and simply taking any government benefits or cash available to you.
These numbers should be guarded with use avoided in every situation. That means never including them for purposes like PINs, when asked for them via emails, if someone wants them as part of an “identifier – a lot of businesses do this.
You can always use another sequence of numbers like your mobile digits. Ideally, you will protect yourself and your identity from those whose goal is to use the last four digits of your SSN to do harm.
What Can thieves do with the last four digits of a debit card?
There’s not much a thief can do with the last four digits of a debit card. The same is true for the bank account number and a credit card number. The last four digits plus the expiration date are acceptable to provide since these can’t serve any purpose to someone intending to commit fraud.
If the criminal has the whole number plus the expiration and the individual’s name, that’s different. The 16-digits on a debit card carry a meaning—the complete number references as a (PAN) or “Permanent Account” number.
You’ll find the Bank’s ID number found within the initial six numbers. The other ten is an account number that is unique to you. Those last four digits alone can serve no purpose to a potential identity thief.
The repercussions of the last four of a SSN being stolen
While a bank account or debit last four is not going to harm you, it’s relatively simple to get these numbers replaced if you feel in harm’s way; a social security number is different.
Generally, the Social Security Administration will not give out a new number, and if they agree to, there’s much red tape that goes with the process, plus your old number still associates itself with you as life goes on.
The government body issues this number for “identity tracking,” not to mention using it to track money earned throughout years worked in order to calculate social security benefits. Under these circumstances, there are many things an individual can do with this identifier, including:
- Obtaining a driving license
- Job applications
- Health insurance enrollment
- Establish a bank account
- Tax returns
- Open a credit card
- Passport application
Scammers, hackers, identity thieves, and other criminals obtain people’s SSN by sifting through trash to look for sensitive documents or taking advantage of data breaches.
Some criminals are part of the dark web where it is their position to hack into private information and sell it to the highest bidder so someone can steal someone’s identity.
At that point, you’re at their mercy for having any sort of fraud committed against you, including committing crimes as you. Some things a criminal can do to harm you include:
Obtain a driving license
A driving license is issued as a form of photo identification, showing proof of where you live and your age. When a criminal has the ability to get through the “Motor Vehicle Association” obtaining a driving license, it exposes you to many forms of fraud.
It merely takes passing the standard testing, showing proof of residency along with a birth certificate, and providing an SSN to obtain a license. It is genuinely possible for a slick hacker to accomplish this without your knowledge.
- Read also: What to do if your child talks to a stranger
Withdraw funds from existing bank accounts and open new ones
Any existing bank accounts are exposed to thieves who wish to use the SSN to transfer money at their leisure. In many cases, hackers armed with an SSN have the potential for determining passwords along with security questions, especially if you tend to use the same ones repeatedly.
Draining the accounts will often happen at a slow, gradual pace, but there are occasions where victims have found accounts emptied in one fell swoop.
Many criminals will open new accounts using your identifying information, particularly if they’ve obtained a driving license. In this way, they’ll have a place where they can transfer the funds from your authentic account.
Access to government benefits
One of the primary reasons to have an SSN is to identify you to receive your social security benefits after tracking earnings during your working years. A hacker can apply for the benefits when they realize you’re eligible despite your decision to wait for full retirement age.
These funds generally go directly to a designated bank account, meaning you might not realize someone is receiving your benefits until years after the fact when you attempt to apply since the bank account is a fraud.
The suggestion is to monitor your social security account a few times annually to ensure it’s safe. If not, contact the Fraud Hotline (800-269-0271) to report someone stealing your benefits.
In some cases, as the fraud victim, you have the potential for being arrested if the criminal is a participant in illegal activity but uses your SSN as an identifier when caught by the police.
It grows worse when bail is posted, and no one comes to the hearing, creating charges on the victim’s record in the situation with the victim facing challenges in attempting to fix the mess.
Selling your sensitive information
There’s much money in selling sensitive information, especially those on the dark web. These are intelligent hackers whose primary position is to retrieve private data on anyone they can and sell it to the highest bidder; it’s how they earn an income.
If these individuals gain access to the last four of your SSN, it opens many doors for them to other pieces of the puzzle-like birthdate, name, address, and on.
When someone requests the last four of your SSN, let them know it’s not in your best interest to provide this information. Instead, you can offer them your driving license number or perhaps the last four of an account number.
How to prevent identity theft
Thieves in the hacking industry are exceptionally good at what they do. It’s how they earn money, meaning they know how to stay one step ahead of cybersecurity and law enforcement.
It might be tough to find a method to stop identity theft altogether, plus those responsible for monitoring these activities generally only alert people once the action has occurred. Still, you can take steps to make the process more challenging.
Criminals want their work to be easy, in and out. When it becomes difficult, they’re not so willing to stick around. Some things to do:
- Contact the three credit agencies to freeze your credit, disallowing new files from being opened.
- Protect your SSN by not carrying it and asking how it will be protected when it’s requested, plus shred anything bearing the number.
- Don’t give information over the phone or email since these can be scammers posing as government bodies or legitimate businesses.
- While you want to maintain the strongest passwords possible, enlist two-factor authentication whenever possible.
- Pay attention to your mailbox since stolen mail leads to identity theft in many cases. The USPS will hold mail when you’re out of town, plus will provide lockable mailboxes and “Informed Delivery.”
- Shred every bit of mail you receive, including invoices, statements, sensitive private information, and even junk correspondence, all of it.
- Monitor your credit report regularly for indications of fraud and register for alerts in case any changes occur.
- In that same vein, ensure that you monitor all statements from financial entities and medical institutions to ensure these are accurate according to due dates, transactions, and that you receive an invoice each month as expected.
Check the explanation of benefits to ensure the charges match the services you recall with all medical interventions.
Maintaining safety and security is not an easy undertaking. It requires a great deal of time, effort, energy, and work, but it’s worth it if you think of the alternative. These criminals are putting in that same amount of effort in an attempt to rob you of your identity. Remember that.
The last four digits of an SSN are the key to each person’s identity. When you consider it in those terms, it makes you want to guard these digits vehemently.
That means you avoid carrying the card on your person, don’t use these numbers as a password, avoid giving it over the phone or in an email, things many of us are guilty of but will no longer do after participating in this piece.
Identity theft does happen, can happen to you, and needs to be taken as a severe threat. Follow the precautions, so you don’t become a victim.