If you pay into Social Security, you should take five minutes and set up your online Social Security account. Yeah, yeah, you’ll add it to your ever-growing to-do list, right? We understand you’re busy. But truly there are a few important reasons you should take care of this sooner rather than later. Here are three of them, followed by some intel on how to set up the account and what you’ll be able to access once you do.
- Prevent Identity Theft: Setting up the account now prevents an identity thief from setting up an unauthorized account using your Social Security number. That’s because there’s only one account per Social Security number allowed. Identity thieves have been known to steal Social Security benefits. They obtain “the personal information of Social Security beneficiaries and use that information to attempt to open a ‘my Social Security’ account on the Social Security Administration’s website. If successful, they then use that account to redirect the beneficiary’s direct deposit benefits to an account controlled by the thief,” according to an alert about the fraud.
- There’s No Other Way to Stay Up To Date: If you’re under age 60, opening an online account is the only way to see a statement since the Social Security department decided to axe sending out paper statements to save money (over $11 million a year!).
- Double Check the Information: If there’s a mistake on the account, it’s better to find out now and start fixing it ASAP, rather than waiting until it’s time to start drawing on the benefits and realizing there was an error along the way. Once you establish your account, carefully go over your record of annual earnings. “Some workers have found that earnings from certain employers or entire years are missing and therefore not counted in calculating your Social Security credited earnings,” according to this CBS News story. “That could reduce the amount of benefits you’re entitled to receive. It’s estimated that there’s a 3 percent error rate for earnings information on these statements.”
Setting Up Your Account
To set up your account, be prepared for a security process that includes obtaining a one-time use code (using your email or cell phone number to get it) that will work as a second way of verifying your identity. You’ll also have to verify personal information that’s in credit bureau files, like a town where you used to live or the year of a vehicle you recently registered.
Once you have an account, you’ll be able to go over your record of annual earnings. You’ll also be able to review estimates of the retirement benefits you could expect to receive at various ages, see the total dollar amount paid by yourself and your employee over the course of your working lifetime and request a benefit verification letter. Additionally, you can change your address or your phone number.
If you do see something suspicious or ever suspect Social Security fraud of any sort, you should call 800-269-0271 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.
Are you covered for identity theft?