What To Do If Your Social Security Number Is Stolen: Key Steps For Identity Protection
Your Social Security number is one of the most important and personal pieces of information you have. One of these unique nine-digit numbers is given to every American at birth or at the time they obtain U.S. citizenship. Its a vital detail that can help you keep track of your earnings, open new lines of credit and use as identification, among many other activities.
Because its so personal and tied specifically to you, however, your Social Security number isnt something you want just anyone getting access to. After obtaining it, someone could use it to impersonate you, steal your identity or enter into financial transactions that create unnecessary hardship for you.
Sometimes, despite your best efforts at keeping your Social Security number safe, it might end up in the wrong hands. If you suspect your SSN has been stolen, its vital to take the right steps to protect yourself. The following tips can help you get back on track if youre dealing with a stolen number or similar identity-theft situation.
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.
How To Replace A Lost Social Security Card Getting A New Social Security Card
You can typically choose to order a social security card, which is often a quick and painless process. However, you might have to request a new social security card, which is a much longer and more tedious process. Before learning how to get a new social security card, learn how to replace your card.
You might be able to apply for a social security card online. You need to:
- Be 18 or older.
DISCLAIMER: VITAL RECORDS ONLINE is an independent private preparer that is not affiliated with any government agency. We provide application preparation assistance services that will help you save time in any vital record application process. Our fees charged are for the preparation of your documents and do not include the fees for obtaining these vital record documents, which you will need to pay separately to the Health Department. The documents and forms that we will fill out on your behalf can be obtained as blank forms free of charge directly from the Health Department, or possibly, elsewhere online. Thanks to our online services, you can save a trip to the Health Department and you will be able to easily fill out your application. We guarantee 100% success in the delivery of your official vital record application materials to your home address.
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Your Social Security Card Got Stolen
Put a Fraud Alert on your Credit Report
First, you want to put a fraud alert on your credit report by contacting all three major credit bureaus. When you do this, lenders and creditors use very strict guidelines when they screen any application with your information on it. These alerts last for a year, but you can get an extension when that year has passed.
Freeze Your Credit
If you want to get even more secure, think about freezing your credit. When doing so, you cannot use your credit for things like refinancing or opening a new credit line until you lift the freeze, which is good, because neither can a criminal.
Consider ID Theft Protection
If you can afford a couple of hundred dollars a year, you should consider ID theft protection. This ensures that your credit is monitored 24/7 by a team of experts who can also help to restore your credit if someone steals it.
Watch Your Credit Report
Even if you freeze your credit or get a fraud alert, that doesnt mean that you are all in the clear. Thieves can definitely steal your identity in alternative ways. So, it is very important that you watch your credit closely. You can get a free report online at AnnualCreditReport.com or with some identity theft protection plans you can get access to credit reports once a month.
Be Smart When Online
Finally, there are some tips and tricks out there that cybercriminals use that people fall for all of the time:
Requesting A Social Security Card For Your Child
Children are prone to losing things and, unfortunately, to identity theft. In fact, our child identity theft research showed that 14 percent of kids have had their identities stolen, which is a concern of over 70 percent of U.S. parents. To get your child a new SS card after it has been lost or stolen, youll need documents proving:
- Your childs identity
- Your childs U.S. citizenship, or immigration status if theyre not a U.S. citizen
- Your identity
- Your custody of or relationship to the child
All of these documents must either be originals or certified copies by the issuing agency. Once youve collected all the necessary documents, complete an SS card application11 and mail it, along with the documents, to your local SSA office or card center.12 Within 10 business days from the date on the receipt, youll receive your childs new SS card.
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What Is A Social Security Number For
Your Social Security is a nine-digit number thats a unique identifier for you for government purposes. Its usually assigned upon birth in the United States, but if you had an undocumented birth or your parents didnt ask for a SSN, you may need to request one as an adult.
Your SSN is very important and is required for several things, such as:
- Filing taxes
- Opening credit card and bank accounts
- Getting a passport
- Filing legal documents
Because your SSN is a unique identifier, its usually not possible to be assigned another one. There are some exceptions in extreme cases, such as if youre changing your identity for safety purposes. Its very difficult to get a new SSN, and the approval process is long.
What If My Social Security Number Is Stolen
We use our Social Security number frequently to verify our identity when starting a new job, opening accounts, visiting doctors offices, filing tax returns, receiving government benefits and services, and more. What if the unthinkable happens and your SSN is stolen? Would you know what to do?
Having your SSN stolen is something you never want to experience, but unfortunately, it does happen, and its happening more frequently because of the digital world we live in. If your SSN is stolen, you are at risk of becoming a victim of identity theft and fraud, which can cause major damage to your credit and even your finances. Below is some helpful information should your SSN be stolen and how to minimize the risk of this happening to you.
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Protect Your Information From Scammers Online And On Your Phone
If you use tax preparation software like TurboTax, TaxAct, or TaxSlayer, use multi-factor authentication. Multi-factor authentication offers extra security by requiring two or more credentials to log in to your account. The additional credentials you need to log in to your account fall into two categories: something you have like a passcode you get via text message or an authentication app, or something you are like a scan of your fingerprint, your retina, or your face. Multi-factor authentication makes it harder for scammers to log in to your accounts if they do get your username and password.
Dont give your personal information to someone who calls, emails, or texts and says theyre with the IRS. It could be a scammer impersonating the IRS to steal your information or money. If you need to contact the IRS, call them at 1-800-829-1040.
What To Do If You Suspect Theft Or Fraud
Your documents or personal information donât have to be directly stolen from your person or storage in order for you to feel the effects of identity theft. In fact, online cybercrime is a much more potent atmosphere for theft of all kinds.
The sheer breadth of information stored digitally means that cybercriminals can access your information without you even knowing itâand a lot of it.
That said, there are certain warning signs of identity theft you should always be on the lookout for, including but not limited to:
- Unfamiliar withdrawals or charges in your accounts
- Generally unexplainable account activity
- Repeated notices about outstanding debts
- IRS notices about unaccounted for tax filings or income
If any of these phenomena are happening to you, you may be an identity theft victim. Beyond notifying the FTC, you should also get in touch with the Social Security Administration . There, the in-house Office of the Inspector General can investigate potential fraud conducted using your name.
Contacting the SSA is also the key to your next step:
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What To Do If Your Social Security Card Was Lost Or Stolen
If your card is lost or stolen, then you need to act immediately to help protect yourself. As soon as you recognize that your card was stolen, you should file a report with your local police department. Notify the authorities so that they can begin working on finding the culprit, and that police report also serves as proof that your card really was stolen in case you need to work on repairing your credit later. A stolen Social Security card is typically more likely to cause you problems down the road, but a lost card can cause issues too. If you simply lost or misplaced your card, then you can skip this step and move on to the next one.
In addition to the police, you will want to go ahead and notify the Social Security Administration that your card is lost or stolen. You should go ahead and register for your MySocialSecurity account at SSA.gov also. This online portal allows you to request a replacement card, view your earnings statements, estimate your future benefits, and many more things. Make sure that you claim your account so that whoever has your SS card cannot claim it fraudulently.
Keep An Eye On Credit Reports
This is something you will need to review regularly. When a thief has a social security card, they can commit various crimes. By making sure you keep an eye on credit activity, you can help to prevent fraud before it escalates into an even bigger problem.
There is a lot to remember but taking all the above steps is necessary. The fraud related to stolen social security cards can be very costly. Try and keep the damage down to a minimum and order a new card at your earliest convenience.
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What Can Someone Do With Your Social Security Number
The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Laws editorial disclosure for more information.
Your Social Security number is one of the most important identifiers you have for financial and legal purposes. Most people born in the United States are issued one at birth, but its not usually something you use yourself until youve reached adulthood. But what happens if someone gets your Social Security number? Keep reading to find out how your SSN can be stolen and what criminals can do with it once they have it.
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.
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Use Identity Theft Monitoring
The best way to keep an eye on your information and other personal data is to use identity monitoring. You will receive notifications and alerts every time a breach or exposure of your personal information occurs, or your details are found on scam sites. Prevent becoming a victim of financial scams by proactively monitoring your identity with identity theft protection and credit monitoring.
You must protect your SSN with every available protection. Your social security number is your unique identifier, and it could be used against you in many ways. Do all you can and do yourself the favor of signing up for credit and identity theft monitoring to keep yourself safe.
If Your Debit Card Or Number Is Stolen
A debit card is an ATM card with a credit card logo on it. It accesses money directly from your bank account, and the legal protections are different from those for credit cards. If your debit card is compromised, call your bank right away and cancel the card. The bank will send you a new debit card and your checking account number will not change. The stolen money, however, will be gone while your bank investigates the matter. If you call the bank within two business days of the fraudulent transaction, your liability is limited to only $50. As time goes by, your liability for fraudulent transactions increases. If you wait more than 60 business days from the date the bank mailed the statement with the fraudulent transaction, you could lose the entire amount of the fraud.
Review Your Credit Reports Carefully
When you receive your credit reports, read them carefully. Look for accounts you dont recognize. Look in the inquiries section for names of creditors from whom you havent requested credit. You may find some inquiries identified as promotional. These occur when a company has gotten your name and address from a credit bureau to send you an offer of credit. Promotional inquiries are not signs of fraud. Also, as a general precaution, look in the personal information section to verify your Social Security number, address and name.
If you find anything you dont understand, call the credit bureau at the telephone number listed on the report. Tell them you want to block, or remove, any information on the report that is the result of identity theft. For more on what to tell the credit bureaus, see the Privacy Rights Clearinghouses Identity Theft: What to Do When It Happens to Youwww.privacyrights.org/fs/fs17a.htm
Wait For Your New Card
Once your form and all relevant documents have been submitted, itâs time to wait for your card to arrive in the mail. Typically, after processing, you can expect it to arrive within about ten to fourteen business days . Then, once your new card arrives, itâs important to take steps to ensure you wonât need to go through all of this again.
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What Do I Do Next Ongoing Steps To Take
As weve talked about in some of my other blog posts, identity theft can be a long-term problem where follow-up instances of theft can crop up over time. However, there are a few steps you can take to minimize the damage and ensure it doesnt happen again. I cover several of those steps in detail in this blog here, yet lets take a look at a few of the top items as they relate to SSN theft:
Consider placing a fraud alert.
Look into an all-out credit freeze.
A full credit freeze is in place until you lift it and will prohibit creditors from pulling your credit report altogether. This can help stop thieves dead in their tracks since approving credit requires pulling a report. However, this applies to legitimate inquires, including any that you make, like opening a new loan or signing up for a credit card. If thats the case, youll need to take extra steps as directed by the particular institution or lender. Unlike the fraud alert, youll need to notify each of the three major credit bureaus when you want the freeze lifted.
Monitor your credit reports.
Once every 12 months, you can access a free credit report from Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. Doing so will allow you to spot any future discrepancies and offer you options for correcting them.
Sign up for an identity protection service.
Protect Yourself From Identity Theft
Read OIG’s Protecting Personal Information for their 10 Tips to Protect Personal Information and several actions to take if you suspect identity theft.
If someone uses your SSN to obtain credit, loans, telephone accounts, or other goods and services, contact the Federal Trade Commission . The FTC collects complaints about identity theft from those whose identities have been stolen. You may reach the FTCs identity theft hotline toll free at 1-877-IDTHEFT or visit their website at www.ftc.gov/idtheft.
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