How To Protect Yourself
Its important to check your report. Look for any credit inquiries from companies you dont recognize and keep an eye out for inaccurate information such as the wrong birthday or address. How often should you check it? Probably three to four times a year to ensure nothing is amiss. If you do find something strange, contact the three credit reporting agencies immediately and freeze your credit. If you use a free app like Credit Karma, you can make the report directly from within the application.
Go to all four credit bureaus and search for credit freeze. Then, go through the process. This will prevent someone with your SSN from opening any new accounts.
Tax identity theft: Go to IRS.gov and download and fill out Form 14039 to make an official note that you are a victim of identity theft. This will help prevent someone from filing a fake tax return.;
Protect your devices: Deploying Antivirus, firewall, software updates, password management, and using a VPN will ward off most attacks. Use Hotspot Shield VPN whenever connected to free, unsecured WiFi like at a coffee shop, airport, or hotel to prevent hackers from stealing your sensitive data.
Your Social Security Card
Whether youve lost your social security card or someone an acquaintance used the number, this is another common way that someone has obtained this information. Keeping your social security card safe, not keeping it in your wallet, and making sure that no one can get to it is another way to protect your identity.
Things Identity Thieves Could Use Your Ssn For
Commit Crimes Using Your Name
Dont have a criminal history? Well, you could end up with one if a real criminal gives your social security number to the police. If they have your SSN, they could falsely assume your identity so the police dont find out about their past crimes. Having a crime appear on your background check could impact your chances at getting a job and purchasing a home.;
Get Loans and Credit Cards In Your Name
Having someone get loans and credit cards in your name is financial suicide! They can purchase whatever they want without paying for it. Youll end up with the bill, and since you likely cant pay the fraudulent charges off, your credit score will be negatively impacted.;
File A Fake Tax Refund/Return;
An identity thief with your SSN could assume your identity and claim a pending tax refund you have. These criminals try to beat their victims to the punch by claiming the return early on in tax season. Victims will typically find this out when their tax refund is denied multiple times.;
Medical Care and Insurance Theft
If someone has your social security information, they could claim to be you and use your health insurance to receive medical care. However, this is way deadlier than you may think. If there are medical records on file about the criminal , it could lead to a medical mix-up down the road when you need care. And not to mention the expensive medical bills youll be left to pay!;
Steal Your Social Security Benefits
Why Service Canada Does Not Issue New Social Insurance Numbers For Those Affected By A Data Breach
A new Social Insurance Number is not a fresh start or protection from fraud or identity theft.
If someone else uses your old Social Insurance Number and the business does not check the persons identity, you may have to prove you were not involved in the fraud or pay the impostors debts.
The Government can only share your new Social Insurance Number with the federal departments and agencies that use your Social Insurance Number.
This means that it would be up to you to provide your new Social Insurance Number to all the financial institutions, creditors, pension providers, recent and current employers, and any other organizations with which you shared your old Social Insurance Number.
Not doing or failing to do so properly risks not receiving benefits or leaves the door open to subsequent fraud or identity theft.
A new Social Insurance Number does not erase your old Social Insurance Number. You would therefore need to monitor your accounts and credit reports for both Social Insurance Numbers on a regular and ongoing basis. This would put burden on you. Numerous Social Insurance Numbers multiply the risk of fraud.
The best way to protect yourself if you are affected by a data breach:
How To Find Out If Your Social Security Number Has Been Stolen
Thieves can operate under your identity for years without discovery, and some of these crimes are very difficult to detect. One of the best things you can do is regularly check a free credit report. Review your credit report thoroughly for unauthorized accounts or public records not related to you. These red flags could indicate clerical errors or identity theft. Either way, you want to watch out for it and act as soon as you see something suspicious. You can also check out these other ways you can find out if youre a victim of identity theft.;
Christine DiGangi is the former Deputy Managing Editor – Engagement for Credit.com and covered a variety of personal finance topics. Her writing has beenfeatured on USA Today, MSN, Yahoo! Finance and The New York Times International Weekly, among other outlets. More by Christine DiGangi
is a USA TODAY content partner offering personal finance news and commentary. Its content is produced independently of USA TODAY.
Read Also: How To Get Your Social Security Card Fast
What Should You Do If Someone Has Been Using Your Social Security Number
So, what happens if you notice that someone has been using your SSN? What do you do next to report the fraud and protect yourself from ongoing identity theft? There are several steps that you should take, and making sure you cover all your bases is crucial to protecting yourself going forward. Here is what you need to do.
Visit Identitytheftgov To Get A Recovery Plan
You can visit IdentityTheft.gov to report identity theft and, more importantly, set up a recovery plan, or you can call 877-438-4338 to do so. Both will guide you through a process that includes:
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Tip 8: Monitor Your Accounts And Be Aware Of New Accounts Being Opened
If someone obtains your SSN, you may find evidence of unlawful use in your bank, credit, or other accounts. Consider setting up alerts with your financial institutions to flag unusual activity, such as withdrawals or purchases over a certain amount. Watch for changes in your credit score. And check your credit reports. Youre entitled to a free credit report every 12 months from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. Go to AnnualCreditReport.com.
When To Provide Your Ssn
Not everyone who requests your SSN actually needs it. Generally speaking, if an entity reports information about you to the Internal Revenue Service , you probably have to supply your SSN. This includes your employer, banks/lenders, the U.S. Treasury for savings bonds, and state unemployment insurance and workers compensation offices.
Although other institutions and businesses have the right to ask for your number, they often dont need it, and you arent legally required to provide it.
As of Jan. 1, 2020, Medicare no longer uses Social Security numbers for identification. Instead, Medicare recipients receive a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier a unique series of numbers and letters that they should also try to protect from identity thieves.
How To Use Ein As Social Security Number
How to use EIN as Social Security Number is a common question. Your business EIN is similar to a person’s SSN, but can you use one for another?4 min read
How to use EIN as Social Security Number is a common question among entrepreneurs. Your business EIN is similar to a person’s Social Security Number, but can you use one for another?
Social Security Benefits Fraud
This type of fraud aims at using an SSN to steal someones Social Security benefits or file for unemployment in their name. Just like with financial identity theft, you may not know someone else is profiting from you until you apply for social benefits yourself and get denied.
The recent COVID-19 stimulus frauds, when identity thieves steal others stimulus payments, fall under the social benefits fraud category.
Also Check: Can You Get Ssdi And Social Security
Contact The Internal Revenue Service
You may also want to contact the Internal Revenue Service if you suspect an identity thief has filed a tax return in your name to get a refund. The IRS should also be on your list of contacts if you suspect someone is using your number for work purposes. Otherwise, the IRS could think you failed to report income when you file your own tax return. Use the IRS Identity Theft Central website or call 800-908-4490.
Report Identity Theft To Other Organizations
You can also report the theft to other organizations, such as:
Credit Reporting Agencies – Contact one of the three major credit reporting agencies to place fraud alerts or freezes on your accounts. Also get copies of your credit reports, to be sure that no one has already tried to get unauthorized credit accounts with your personal information. Confirm that the credit reporting agency will alert the other two credit reporting agencies.
National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center – Report cases of identity theft due to a stay in a nursing home or long-term care facility.;
Financial Institutions – Contact the fraud department at your bank, credit card issuers and any other places where you have accounts. ;
Retailers and Other Companies – Report the crime to companies where the identity thief opened credit accounts or even applied for jobs.
State Attorney General;Offices – Your state’s attorney general;might;offer tips, checklists, or an advocate;to help you recover from identity theft. These resources don’t replace filing an ID theft report with the FTC.
You may need to get new personal records or identification cards if you’re the victim of ID theft.;;Learn how to replace your vital identification documents;after identity theft.;
Read Also: How Do I Get My 1099 For Social Security
When Opening An Account With Any Us Financial Institution
Since 1970, the federal government has required banks to obtain customers Social Security numbers or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number .Financial institutions use your SSN to check your credit, to report your interest and investment income or losses to the IRS, to report your tax-deductible mortgage interest to the IRS, and to manage your account.
As an alternative, some financial institutions will accept a taxpayer identification number , which youll need to apply for through the IRS.;
Tip 4: Rarely Share Your Number
You may have to provide your Social Security number to your bank or employer. But theres no reason your pizza delivery guy needs it. If someone asks for your Social Security number, ask questions. Why? How will it be used? What if I refuse to share it?
You may be able to offer an alternative form of identification, such as a drivers license number, student ID, or utility bill.
Recommended Reading: What Age Can I Sign Up For Social Security
Signs That Someone Is Using My Social Security Number
Below are some of the warning signs that someone stole your SSN and are using it.
How Can Someone Steal Your Identity
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information such as your name, social security number, or other identifying information, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes.
Be alert to possible identity theft if the notice or letter states that:
- more than one tax return for you was filed, or IRS records indicate you received wages from an employer unknown to you.
- If you receive a notice, contact the IRS either by phone or in writing as directed in that notice.; IRS tax examiners will work with you and other agencies, such as the Social Security Administration, to help resolve the problem.
The IRS does not initiate taxpayer communications through e-mail.
- The IRS does not request detailed personal information through e-mail.
- The IRS does not send e-mails requesting your PIN numbers, passwords or similar access information for credit cards, banks or other financial accounts.
If you receive an e-mail from someone claiming to be the IRS or directing you to an IRS site,
- Do not reply.
Freeze Your Childs Credit Report
If your child is under 16, you can request a free credit freeze, also known as a security freeze, to make it harder for someone to open new accounts in your child’s name. The freeze stays in place until you tell the credit bureaus to remove it.
To activate a credit freeze, contact each of the three credit bureaus. Find their contact information at IdentityTheft.gov.
Apply For A New Ssn As A Last Resort
If you believe youve done everything you can and someone is still using your SSN, you may need to request a new number from the SSA. If you decide to apply for a new number, you will need to prove your identity, age, and U.S. citizenship or immigration status. You will also need to provide evidence that someone is using your old number. The SSA booklet Your Social Security Number and Card explains the application process.
Bear in mind that a new SSN may not solve all your problems. Think about all the government agencies, banks, credit reporting companies, and others that already have and use your old number.
Once you receive a new SSN, do not use your old number again. Make sure your new number is reported to all agencies that will need it and that those agencies know you no longer use your old number.
What To Do If Someone Is Using Your Stolen Ssn
A stolen SSN can cause endless headaches, so you must take action soon as you notice that someone is using your SSN. Any delays would mean loans are taken out in your name, expensive purchases made, or stolen tax refunds. You won’t be able to unravel the mess if it gets too late!
The Social Security Administration recommends that you:
Sign in to your mySSN account to check your earnings record. If someone has used your SSN to get a job or take out a loan, you will know.
If something looks fishy in your earning record, go through the steps mentioned on the Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft page. You can get in touch with them to begin the process of taking back control and protecting yourself in the future. You can also call the FTC at 1-877-438-4338.
You should dial 1-800-269-0271 to get in touch with SSA or alert them via the IRS Identity Protection website so that no one can steal your tax refund or files a tax return in your name.
File a police report in the local jurisdiction where your identity theft took place to establish a record of the incident. This can come in handy when you find the thief.;
How To Get A Free Ein Online Instantly
The IRS issues Employer Identification Numbers free. It is possible to obtain one instantly when you apply through the IRS website by following these steps:
- Visit the IRS EIN application page via this link.
- Complete the application process.
- The IRS will issue you an EIN instantly if you are eligible.
They Can Use Your Ssn To Pay For Their Utilities
In order to use their services, it’s pretty standard for utility companies to ask for your Social Security number as a way to check your credit history, according to the FTC. But this just means there’s another opportunity for a hacker to get your personal information and unfairly wreak havoc on your finances. Once your SSN lands in the hands of hackers, they can freely open utility services under your name for their personal use. You might not see any signs of this until you receive a notice for a past due payment.
Pro tip: Before you mindlessly give out your SSN, take a moment to ask about the company’s security policies and what measures are in place to protect you and your SSN, said Adam Levin, author of “Swiped: How to Protect Yourself in a World Full of Scammers, Phishers, and Identity Thieves,” in a blog for the Huffington Post.