Social Security Number

Identity Theft and Your Social Security Number

One of the ways identity thieves are able to steal the identity of an unsuspecting individual is to gain access to the individual’s Social Security number. Your Social Security number (SSN) is an important identifying piece of information and you should take steps to protect your SSN at all times.

In past years, SSNs were used to verify the identity of individuals for online transactions. However, regulations have now been implemented that require businesses and institutions to verify an individual’s identity using other methods, such as a phone number, address or answers to predetermined security questions. Some banks, credit card companies, and even vendors of cable and other utilities will require you to set up a PIN number in order to access your accounts online or over the phone. However, banks and credit cards will still often ask users to verify their identity with the last four digits of their SSN.

Protect Your Social Security Number

Protecting your Social Security number is one way to ensure that identity thieves are not able to steal your identity. Never leave your actual SSN card, or any other forms that include your SSN in a place where another person is able to see these documents. Make sure to keep any document or form that includes your SSN in a locked, or at least secured, place.

Prior to the identity theft epidemic, common practice was to print the SSN on checks, along with the user’s address and phone number. Never, ever print your SSN on your checks. In fact, have as little information as possible printed on your checks in order to deter identity thieves. The more information they have about you, the easier it will be for them to open accounts in your name or to access your existing accounts.

Another way identity thieves may steal your SSN is by accessing your mail. If someone has stolen your credit card statement, bank statement or even your yearly Social Security Statement (Form SSA-7005) they will have access to your personal information, including your Social Security number. If you suspect that someone is stealing your mail, either install a lock on your home’s mailbox or rent a post office box at one of the businesses that provide postal services, or at the U.S. post office in your neighborhood.

What To Do If Your SSN Is Stolen

If you suspect that another person has stolen your SSN, there are a few steps you should immediately take.

  • File a police report. If you know the name of the person whom you suspect of stealing your SSN, file a police report with your local police department. In addition, file an online IC3 report with the FBI.
  • Obtain credit reports from all three credit bureaus and review the information these agencies have for your SSN. If you see any questionable entries, notify the respective credit bureau with regards to the error. In addition, place a fraud alert with each of the credit bureaus for your SSN. This will require that anyone opening an account using your SSN and name will need to verify their identity with additional measures. This process is known as a security freeze. Though this action will complicate the process when you legitimately open accounts in your own name and with your own information, it will definitely stop an identity thief from opening any additional accounts with your information.

Contact information for the three credit bureaus:

    Equifax
    Fraud Report Line: (800) 525-6285
    Order Credit Report: (800) 685-1111
    Website: www.equifax.com

    Experian
    Fraud Report Line: (888) 397-3742
    Order Credit Report: (888) 397-3742
    Website: www.experian.com

    Trans Union
    Fraud Report Line: (800) 680-7289
    Order Credit Report: (800) 916-8800
    Website: www.tuc.com

  • Contact any creditors that have issued accounts using your information to anyone other than you. Notify them of the identity theft issue.
  • If mail has been stolen in order to gain access to your personal information, file a written complaint with the U.S. Postal Inspector Service at usps.com/websites/depart/inspect.
  • If one of your credit cards, or your bank accounts, have been accessed and used without your knowledge, cancel the account immediately.
  • If your SSN has been used for another person to obtain a job, notify the Social Security Administration either by phone at (800) 772-1213 or file an online complaint at ssa.gov/oig/ifyou.htm. The Social Security Administration will assist you in straightening out the fraudulent use of your SSN.

If, by chance, you have learned the identity of the person using your SSN, or the company they have been working for, do not contact them or the company. The company will most likely confront the person and they will probably leave the job and continue to use your SSN on the next job. Don’t give them the chance. Go straight to the authorities. Take measures to protect your SSN from fraudulent use at all times. Protect your mail and any documents that may include your SSN.