If you follow me online, you know I'm a big advocate of what I think of as "personal risk management." To me, it means taking as much control (as practical) of your personal information and making value-based decisions that balance data availability and security.
One of the simplest, cheapest, and by far the most preventative methods for avoiding identity theft is a credit freeze. I've talked about it before on this site, and I mentioned it recently on Gabe Weatherhead's Generational podcast.
If your credit file is frozen, your social security number is useless to someone who tries to use it to apply for any product that requires a credit check (loans, auto insurance, credit cards, you name it).
Not really. Take, for example, today's breaking news about an epic hack of the South Carolina Department of Revenue's database:
The extent of the breach was massive: an estimated 3.6 million Social Security numbers and 387,000 credit and debit card numbers were exposed. . . For perspective, there are almost 4.7 million South Carolinians, according to the 2012 U.S. Census, meaning three out of four people's Social Security numbers were compromised.
You should assume that at some point your in lifetime your social security number will be used against you. And until the very broken, antiquated, pro-Wall-Street, anti-consumer credit system in the U.S. is fixed, a credit freeze is your best friend.