Ask Karen Gibbs

Veteran business correspondent Karen Gibbs answers your personal money questions and addresses current topics that affect YOUR finances on a daily basis. Karen is the financial expert in your corner--no question is too basic or too small. Karen boils down the issues simply: here's what you need to know, and here's what you need to do. Send your money questions to AskKaren@mpt.org and post your comments below.

25

October

All about access to social security data

Karen Gibbs

Karen, I’m on social security and received a notice that I must have a text-enabled cell phone to access my social security account.  I don’t text and don’t want to. Can I block access to my social security data?
- Concerned in Catonsville, MD

Man texting on a phone

Dear concerned, you can relax.  The Social Security Administration, in an effort to upgrade online security, had required a security code to be texted to your phone as a “multifactor authentication” security measure.


However, bowing to public and Congressional pressure, the Social Security Administration has rescinded the July 30, 2016 mandate and now no longer requires you to have a text-enabled cell phone.  Fewer older Americans use cell phones and those who do often find texting difficult due to vision problems or arthritis.


The Social Security Administration still strongly urges you to take advantage of what is now an optional extra security level.  Opening your personal social security account allows you to do many things online such as request a new card, get your social security statement and benefits verification letter, change your address or direct deposit information and manage your Medicare benefits.


For many retirees, social security is the main source of income, so it’s important to know where you stand in terms of benefits.  It’s also smart thinking about your money to know what social security and Medicare benefits you can receive and how to manage them.  Having an online account is a helpful tool.


You can block online access to your social security information and the Social Security Administration recommends you do that if you have been a victim of domestic violence or of identity theft.  If you have frozen access to your credit reports from one of the three credit reporting agencies, you will not be able to open a My Social Security account.  You can lift the freeze, temporarily and for a fee, for any length of time you choose, allowing the Social Security Administration to make a “soft” inquiry; one that doesn’t affect your credit score or isn’t shared with other creditors.


Don’t forget the old fashioned way of setting up a social security account - visit your local social security office and have them set up your online account.  It may take some time, but it might save you money, the aggravation and worry.


Good luck!!

- Ask Karen

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