If you haven't signed up for a SocialSecurity.gov personal account, do it now. Don't give a crook a chance to sign up as you.
A year ago, Social Security launched the My Social Security online portal at SocialSecurity.gov, which gives participants of any age information about their personal Social Security and Medicare accounts. At this year's recent meeting with the consumer Social Security Advisory Board, the administration warned that a small number -- fewer than 1 percent -- of the accounts have been created by fraudsters who opened a My Social Security account using information that belongs to someone else.
These crooks can use the portal to change the beneficiary information, directing Social Security payments to a different bank account -- one to which they have access. Social Security says this is most likely to happen to those who are "elderly, ill or nontech-savvy." Even if a participant isn't yet receiving Social Security payments, having this information stolen can be problematic, Social Security says, because it allows a crook to receive a benefit verification letter and future retirement benefit information.
Setting up one of these retirement planning accounts requires that you provide personal information and create a password. The password is constructed in a way that is more complex than most people use for other purposes. Once you've done it, the likelihood that someone will be able to break into your account is low.
Only one account per Social Security number is permitted, so if you have never set one up and are unable to do so, Social Security recommends that you either call (800) 772-1213 or go in person to your local Social Security office for help.
Social Security will never send or email you an invitation asking you to sign up for a My Social Security account, but crooks may try this route to get your personal information. The administration says not to trust any link that purports to be from Social Security that doesn't END in .gov/.