Welcome to Ask Clark, a column designed to answer your financial questions, by money expert Clark Howard.
How Do I Get My Social Security Number Off the Dark Web?
Ingrid from Connecticut asks: “I was notified by Discover that my Social Security number was found on the dark web. I’m freaking out. What should I do?
“My credit has been frozen, so I know that’s good. I’ve not created an account on SocialSecurity.gov as of yet, but now I’m afraid of my credit to do so.”
Clark’s Take on What You Should Do if Your Social Security Number Is on the Dark Web
Clark says this is a big issue that affects an untold number of people. He says, when he’s out and about, people keep asking him about the notices they’ve been getting from Discover about the dark web.
Clark describes the dark web as “basically message boards and discussion boards where people buy and sell information on other people for purposes of identity theft or applying for credit or buying things as if they’re someone else..”
The dark web is also a haven for cybercrime communities, according to this cybersecurity guidebook from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The Dark Web: How To Protect Yourself
We never like to use the word “impossible,” but unlike information found on Google and other indexed search engines, data on the dark web is nearly impossible to remove.
With that said, if you happen to find your Social Security number on the dark web, here are some steps you can take.
It’s important that you don’t freak out just because you find out that your information is on the dark web, Clark says.
“At this point, you take the Equifax data breach that affected two-thirds of American adults, whose Social Security numbers are out in the marketplace, and various other breaches that have happened, particularly those in medical environments, and you’ll probably find that most of us are somewhere on the dark web,” Clark says.
“Just know you have a lot of company. Almost all of us are probably on the dark web at this point with our Social Security numbers there.”
Freeze Your Credit
Clark is a big proponent of freezing your credit, which will prevent anyone from opening a credit account in your name. Clark commended the listener for having already frozen her credit.
Create a Social Security Account Online
Clark says relatively few people have created Social Security accounts online, but doing so makes sense. Note that you’ll have to thaw your credit in order to do it. Once it’s set up, remember to freeze your credit again.
“As far as having a mySocialSecurity account, If you were to temporarily thaw your credit files, set up a My Social Security account, that would be a good idea because you want to monitor to make sure that your work credits are being posted properly each year, because that’s the only way you can make sure you get the Social Security benefit you’re supposed to receive later,” Clark says.
Go to the Social Security Administration’s official website, ssa.gov/myaccount to create an account.
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