Being vigilant about your privacy is a necessity in today’s world, and nothing is more important to protect than your Social Security number. Unfortunately, many businesses – and the federal government – are not as careful with citizens’ numbers as they should be.

While colleges and universities have ceased using students’ Social Security numbers as student identification numbers, the Social Security Administration lags far behind. All Medicare enrollees receive a benefits card that is emblazoned with their Social Security number, and most of them carry it in their wallet.

People lose their wallets all the time, which is why I tell my clients and their loved ones to never carry their Medicare card, or their Social Security card, in their wallet.

No one can ever get assigned another Social Security number.

Another threat is the prevalence of places asking for Social Security numbers when they have no business doing so. Just because a person or business asks for a person’s Social Security number does not mean that person is required to provide it.

That includes a doctor’s office. Someone who finds him or herself being prompted to give up their number should be firm and confident. In the case of a doctor’s office, insist that they use your insurance ID number instead.

Even at home, scam artists are angling to get access to people’s Social Security numbers. The classic move is for the scammer, or phisher, to call a home and act like they know the senior – and then ask for as much personal information as they can get. Remember:

  • Medicare will never ask for someone’s Social Security number – they already have it.

  • Banks will never call and ask for a Social Security number – they, too, already have it.

One way to help combat this type of scam in the senior population is to keep a script by the phone so they don’t get flustered or intimidated, like:

  • I’m not interested, please don’t call back.

  • I’d be glad to discuss this further If I can call you back. May I have your number?

  • Please send me something in the mail.

The bottom line is that we are all in charge of our own Social Security numbers – taking basic steps to secure our own privacy is easier than it sounds. How can you organize yourself, or your loved one, to be resilient in the face of dishonest people?

Judith Heft, Principal, Judith Heft & Associates is a personal financial concierge with offices in Greenwich and Stamford. She can be contacted via email at [email protected] or by phone 203-978-1858.