Keeping Tabs on Your Personal Social Security Data - dummies

Keeping Tabs on Your Personal Social Security Data

By Jonathan Peterson

Copyright © 2015 AARP. All rights reserved.

One of the most important things you can do as a consumer of Social Security is keep track of your personal data. This includes the agency’s official record of your earnings history, as well as your benefits, either currently or projected for the future.

In the past, Social Security sent a personal statement in the mail each year. It halted this practice in 2011 to save money, but more recently resumed limited mailings. The current policy is to mail personal statements to workers who haven’t set up online accounts every five years starting at age 25, and then annually after age 60.

This information is so important. The benefit projections help you plan ahead. And the earnings history is a basis for those benefits, so you want to flag any errors.

That said, you can get the same information by opening an online account.

To set up an account, just go to the Social Security Administration website and take a few minutes to register.

In addition to providing the same information on benefits that appears in the written statement, the online account offers some additional options:

  • If you already get benefits, you can use an online account to change your direct deposit information on file with Social Security, request a benefit verification letter, or provide the agency with a different address or phone number.

  • If you don’t yet get benefits (or aren’t currently receiving them), you can use the online account to get a letter verifying those facts, or to verify that your application for benefits is pending.

One caution: Crooks have tried to exploit people’s interest in online accounts. Con artists have been known to send out emails asking people to establish accounts through phony web addresses, as a way to “phish” for personal information. Only set up a Social Security account through its official website.

The Social Security Administration asks that if you receive a suspicious request to open a Social Security account, send the information to the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team.