Avoiding Social Security Fraud: Leave Your Social Security Card At Home
Once you receive your replacement Social Security card, lock it away in a safe place until you absolutely need it. Experts advise to avoid carrying your card around on a regular basis partly because of the risk of losing it again, and partly because you really dont need to present your Social Security card on a regular basis. In fact, one Social Security expert says that Social Security cards are irrelevant in the digital age, and the real priority should be targeted at fraud protection.
Its extremely rare that you need your actual Social Security card, says Steven J.J. Weisman, Esq., an Amherst, Massachusetts-based college professor whose expertise is in investigating white-collar crime. A Social Security number is the most important piece of information that a criminal can use to make you a victim of identity theft so you shouldn’t carry it with you in your wallet, anyway.
But if you do lose your card, Weisman recommends taking direct action to protecting the cardholder from financial fraud.
Because of the danger of identity theft if your Social Security card is lost, you should put a credit freeze on your credit reports at each of the three major credit reporting agencies in order to prevent someone from leveraging the Social Security number into accessing your credit or establishing accounts in your name, he says.
Other data security experts agree, citing the high risk of losing a card if you cart it around in your wallet or pocketbook.
If You Have Been Affected By A Data Breach
The Government of Canada is committed to protecting the integrity of the SIN program from fraud and misuse. It takes any breach of information very seriously.
If you have been affected by a data breach, contact Canadas 2 major credit bureaus to monitor your file.
- Equifax: 1-800-465-7166
- TransUnion: 1-800-663-9980
Regularly review your banking and credit card statements, especially after the credit monitoring service ends.
If you notice any suspicious activity, immediately report it to the police, contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, and inform Service Canada. This will help reduce the potential impact.
Service Canada does not issue a new SIN for those affected by a data breach.
How Does Social Security Identity Theft Happen
There are several ways an SSN can end up with a thief. Some involve physical theft, and others can take the digital route. To what extent are SSNs at risk? Notably, there was the Equifax breach of 2017, which exposed some 147 million SSNs. Yet just because an SSN has been potentially exposed does not mean that an identity crime has been committed with it.
So, lets start with the basics: how do SSNs get stolen or exposed?
Thats quite the list. Broadly speaking, the examples above give good reasons for keeping your SSN as private and secure as possible. With that, its helpful to know that there are only a handful of situations where your SSN is required for legitimate purposes, which can help you can make decisions about how and when to give it out. The list of required cases is relatively short, such as:
- When applying for credit or a loan.
- Transactions that require IRS notification, like working with investment firms, real estate purchases, auto purchases, etc.
- Registering with a business as a full-time or contract employee .
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Reach Out To Your States Dmv Or Licensing Agency
An identity thief could use your drivers license or state ID number to impersonate you. They can use your drivers license number on a check, during a traffic stop, or to make a fake license. If you lose your drivers license or state ID, ask your states DMV or licensing agency to place a flag on your license number to help put law enforcement on notice.
Whether And How To Get A New Social Security Number
Many stolen Social Security numbers are used simply to gain employment, with no detrimental effect to the legitimate holders of the SSN. But others are used to defraud banks, retailers, the IRS and other government agencies, which could trash your credit.
If several years pass after the theft of your Social Security number, and the problems arising from the theft have not gotten any better, then you may want to apply for a new SSN. But before you take that step, there are several things to consider.
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What Are The Dangers Of Losing My Social Security Card
Scammers can use your SSN to apply for credit cards or loans in your name, or commit account takeover fraud and steal or access additional personal information. One of the fastest-growing COVID-19-related identity theft crimes is tax fraud and identity theft, whereby thieves file a phony tax return in your name, hoping to snag a refund before you catch on. If your Social Security card is stolen, be sure to report the loss to the Internal Revenue Service. Another recent COVID-19 scam that cruelly exploits job losses involves filing phony unemployment claims using your SSN, birth date, name, or address.
Even if your Social Security card is not stolen or lost, you need to remain vigilant for scammers who call you claiming theres a problem with your SSN or account and try to get you to divulge personal information. If theres a legitimate problem with your number or account, the Social Security Administration will mail you a letter with your Social Security number. To learn how to respond to unsolicited robocalls or calls using caller ID spoofing, visit this SSA webpage.
The Impact Of A New Social Security Number
Before getting a new Social Security number, you will want to consider the impactsuch as how it might affect your credit. While the SSA says that your old and new numbers will be linked, the reality is that it’s not that simple. There is likely going to be a new credit report generated and your credit scores may decrease because there’s no credit history associated with the new SSN at first.
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Should You Contact Local Law Enforcement Directly
Although the IC3 will direct your complaint to the appropriate regulatory agencies, they encourage you to contact local law enforcement directly if you have a complaint that’s time-sensitive.
Some credit card companies won’t dismiss fraudulent charges until you’ve filed a police report. Therefore, taking the time to contact your local police department, in addition to the IC3, may be in your best interest.
What Is A Fraud Alert
A fraud alert tells businesses that they must contact you before they give someone credit in your name. You put a fraud alert on your credit report. A fraud alert makes it hard for someone else to open new accounts in your name.
There are a few kinds of fraud alerts. They are all free:
- Initial fraud alert lasts for one year. Use this if you think someone stole your identity.
- Extended fraud alert lasts for seven years. Use this if you know someone stole your identity.
- Active duty alert lasts up to one year. Use this if you are in the military and deployed.
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How To Report Identity Theft To Social Security In Three Steps
Lets say you spot something unusual on your credit report or get a notification that someone has filed a tax return on your behalf without your knowledge. These are possible signs that your identity, if not your SSN, is in jeopardy, which means its time to act right away using the steps below:
1. Report the theft to local and federal authorities.
File a police report and a Federal Trade Commission Identity Theft Report. This will help in case someone uses your Social Security number to commit fraud, since it will provide a legal record of the theft. The FTC can also assist by guiding you through the identity theft recovery process as well. Their site really is an excellent resource.
2. Contact the businesses involved.
Get in touch with the fraud department at each of the businesses where you suspect theft has taken place, let them know of your situation, and follow the steps they provide. With your police and FTC reports, you will already have a couple of vital pieces of information that can help you clear your name.
3. Reach the Social Security Administration and the IRS.
What Is An Identity Theft Report
An Identity Theft Report helps you fix your bills and your credit report. Your Identity Theft Report tells your creditors that you should not have to pay for what the identity thief spent.
You get an Identity Theft Report when you report a problem to IdentityTheft.gov. This is your statement about what happened. It lists what accounts are not yours and what charges you did not make.
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Identity Theft Can Happen To You Even If Youre Careful
But whats the first thing you need to do? To start, a fraudster could have several pieces of your personally identifiable information . This is unique, sensitive information like your Social Security number that can enable someone to commit more than one type of fraud in your name.
Youre likely wondering how your PII was stolen. Its important to remember that even if youve been diligent in trying to keep your personal information private, cybercrimes like the Equifax data breach show your information can still be vulnerable various ways. Take the case of three men in Florida who were sentenced in 2017 for conspiracy and aggravated identity theft. The ID theft occurred when one of the defendants worked at a pediatricians practice and stole the PII of patients, their parents and guardians, more than 13,000 people in all.
In this article, well share 14 steps you can take to help stop an identity thief from continuing to use your identity, along with additional recovery actions you can take, depending on the type of identity fraud you may have experienced.
What Do I Do If My Social Security Card Or Number Is Stolen Or Lost
If your Social Security card or number is lost or stolen, you should immediately contact your local police department and the Social Security Administration to let them know about the incident. Once youve done that, there are a few other things that you can do to help mitigate the risks involved with losing your Social Security card.
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How Do You Know If Someone Is Using Your Social Security Number Fraudulently
Your correct Social Security number doesn’t actually appear on your credit reports to protect your identity, but if any other Social Security numbers are attached to your name, those will appear in your personal information section.
An incorrect number doesn’t necessarily indicate fraud. For instance, someone could misread or mistype a number when reporting it to the credit bureaus. It’s important to look into it immediatelyboth with the creditor and the credit bureau. You can get a free copy of your Experian credit report here on Experian.com and you’re also eligible to get one free report from each of the three credit reporting bureaus every 12 months at AnnualCreditReport.com.
Also, if you see inquiries or new accounts on your credit report, you may have had your Social Security number compromised. SSNs can fall in the wrong hands if you’re a part of a data breach and your SSN is included in the hacked or stolen records. Identity thieves can also buy and sell your Social Security number on the dark web.
Prevent Or Curtail Further Identity Theft Abuses By Contacting The Following Agencies
An identity thief may use your personal identifying information to fraudulently obtain a driver’s license, file for bankruptcy, apply for social security benefits or even get a passport. To head off such possibilities, contact the following agencies and follow their procedures to limit the damage an identity thief can do.
Fair Credit Reporting Act: What To Do About Identity Theft
If you discover youre a victim of ID theft, you have specific rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act . These rights include:
- Placing fraud alerts with the three major U.S. credit reporting agencies , also commonly known as the credit bureaus.
- Getting copies of your credit reports from the three CRAs.
- Placing a security freeze on your credit report.
- Obtaining documents related to fraudulent transactions or accounts opened using your personal information.
- Obtaining information from debt collectors.
- Blocking the reporting of damaging information to the CRAs so it doesnt appear in your credit reports.
- Stopping businesses from reporting inaccurate information to the CRAs.
Plus, there are additional steps you can take to help ensure an identity thief isnt continuing to use your identity.
- Contacting the companies and banks where you know identity fraud occurred.
- Reporting the identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission .
- Filing a report of the identity theft with local law enforcement.
- Contacting the IRS, if you suspect tax-related identity theft.
- Reaching out to your healthcare insurance and medical providers.
- Placing a flag on your drivers license or state ID.
- Cleaning up your accounts.
Get The Best Identity Theft Protection Today
If you think youve been victimized after experiencing a lost or stolen Social Security card, or your Social Security number has been exposed by a data breach, we can help you take the steps to protect what matters most. IdentityForce can help monitor your identity and credit while providing you with the latest news and information in identity theft protection. Our Smart SSN Tracker alerts you if an unfamiliar name, alias, or address is associated with your SSN, and our experts will be there to assist you every step of the way. IdentityForces Identity Vault provides online encrypted storage for your important personally identifiable information including SSNs, credit cards, financial account information, and birth dates, along with other important documents. It also provides access to online and mobile digital organization and storage of digital copies of important legal and personal documents, medical records, and other items.
Weve built best-in-class, innovative capabilities that continue to be named the best identity theft protection service throughout our industry. Additionally, our IdentityForce members receive full, white-glove restoration services to reduce the damaging effects of all types of fraud, theft, misuse, and unintended exposure of personal and financial data.
Let us show you how IdentityForce can help you manage through a compromised Social Security number incident. .
**Originally published July 11, 2017. Updated April 14, 2021.**
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Know The Signs Of Identity Theft
You may not know youre a victim of identity theft until youre notified by the IRS of a possible issue with your return.
Be alert to possible tax-related identity theft if:
- You get a letter from the IRS inquiring about a suspicious tax return that you did not file.
- You cant e-file your tax return because of a duplicate Social Security number.
- You get a tax transcript in the mail that you did not request.
- You get an IRS notice that an online account has been created in your name.
- You get an IRS notice that your existing online account has been accessed or disabled when you took no action.
- You get an IRS notice that you owe additional tax or refund offset, or that you have had collection actions taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return.
- IRS records indicate you received wages or other income from an employer you didnt work for.
- Youve been assigned an Employer Identification Number but you did not request an EIN.
Request Information On Fraudulent Accounts
When you file your police report of identity theft, the officer may give you forms to use to request account information from credit grantors, utilities or cell phone service companies. If the officer does not do this, you can use the form in our Consumer Information Sheet 3A: Requesting Information on Fraudulent Accounts. When you write to creditors where the thief opened or applied for accounts, send copies of the forms, along with copies of the police report. Give the information you receive from creditors to the officer investigating your case.
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Request Additional Free Credit Reports
California identity theft victims with a police report of identity theft are entitled to receive up to 12 free credit reports, one per month for the 12 months following the date of the police report. The procedure for requesting free monthly reports is different for each of the credit bureaus.
Experian: Make a single request to receive all of your free monthly reports. Mail your request for 12 free monthly reports to Experian at P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013. Enclose a copy of the police report of identity theft, a copy of a government-issued identification card , and a copy of proof of current mailing address . Also provide your full name including middle initial , previous addresses for the past two years, Social Security number and date of birth.
TransUnion LLC: Write or call in your request each month. Mail to TransUnion LLC, P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19016. Or call the toll-free number printed on your most recent TransUnion LLC credit report. Provide your full name including middle initial , Social Security number, date of birth, and proof of residence .
Equifax: Write or call in your request each month. Mail to Equifax Fraud Department, P.O. Box 740250, Atlanta, GA 30374. Or call the toll-free number printed on your most recent Equifax credit report.
Notify The Company Involved
Contact the business or lender with whom the fraudulent transaction took place. Close the account in question, whether its one youve had for a while or one that the thief opened in your name. Make sure creditors mark the account as closed upon your request a notation that your credit card was lost or stolen can have a negative effect on your credit report.
There may be more than one transaction involved, and you might encounter some resistance, especially from smaller businesses that dont fully understand your dilemma. Insist on receiving copies of all paperwork involved in the transactions anyway.
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