savings

Identity theft protection for savings bonds

Don TaylorDear Dr. Don,
I have several savings bonds that have our Social Security numbers on the front. They're placed very prominently. I am really afraid to cash them because of the Social Security numbers and the risk of identity theft. What can I do about that?

Thanks,
-- Lee Leery

Dear Lee,
First, figure out whether the savings bonds have stopped earning interest. If they haven't, and they're earning a good yield, then it may be premature to redeem the bonds. I like using the Treasury's Savings Bond Wizard at TreasuryDirect.gov, which allows you to add bonds to a portfolio that can be saved for future reference.

The Treasury started masking the first five digits of the owner's Social Security number on savings bonds issued on or after Aug. 1, 2006, to reduce the chance, however remote, that savings bonds could lead to identity theft.

I asked a Treasury representative whether you could request that your older savings bonds be replaced. The representative replied, "We generally do not reissue paper savings bonds to change or mask the Social Security number. However, you may submit the bonds and a signed letter to our office for consideration to request that the bonds be reissued, to mask the Social Security number."

The representative also pointed out that when savings bonds are redeemed, the person's Social Security number is written in full on the back of the bond for tax purposes, so the interest income can be reported to the Internal Revenue Service. That means that even a savings bond with a partially masked Social Security number on the front will still have a Social Security number written on the back.

If the bonds haven't matured, or even if they have, you could consider opening a TreasuryDirect account and converting your paper bonds to electronic form. You would have to enter your Taxpayer Identification Number, or TIN, which for most of us is our Social Security number.

But you'd be doing it within the security precautions on the TreasuryDirect site. By converting the bonds to electronic form, you can redeem them online and have the proceeds deposited into your linked bank account. (There's a second step required for matured bonds.)

If the electronic conversion isn't your cup of tea, then I suggest you skip the reissue request and just go ahead and redeem the bonds at a local participating financial institution. If you're worried about identity theft, then take the precaution of freezing your credit reports. Bankrate can show you how.

Get more news, money-saving tips and expert advice by signing up for a free Bankrate newsletter.

Ask the adviser

To ask a question of Dr. Don, go to the "Ask the Experts" page and select one of these topics: "Financing a home," "Saving & Investing" or "Money." Read more Dr. Don columns for additional personal finance advice.

Bankrate's content, including the guidance of its advice-and-expert columns and this website, is intended only to assist you with financial decisions. The content is broad in scope and does not consider your personal financial situation. Bankrate recommends that you seek the advice of advisers who are fully aware of your individual circumstances before making any final decisions or implementing any financial strategy. Please remember that your use of this website is governed by Bankrate's Terms of Use.

advertisement

Show Bankrate's community sharing policy
          Connect with us
advertisement
CD & INVESTING NEWSLETTER

Learn the latest trends that will help grow your portfolio, plus tips on investing strategies. Delivered weekly.

Ask Dr. Don

Best investment for grandkids?

Dear Dr. Don, I am a grandmother of four and want to start a life savings for my grandchildren. Their ages range from 2 to 8. Should I get savings bonds or certificates of deposit? Thank you, -- Nanna Notes Dear Dr. Don,... Read more

advertisement
Partner Center
advertisement

Connect with us