When your Social Security number falls into the wrong hands, it can be disastrous to your financial and even social life. Unfortunately, no matter how careful you are, it’s still possible for criminals to get hold of this sensitive piece of information.
Hackers take the extra mile to steal people’s SSNs and identities. That’s why it’s crucial to be proactive with your security.
So, how do you know if someone is using your SSN?
In this article, we’ve gathered the warning signs to watch out for. In the end, we shared a unique tip we’ve found for keeping your SSN secure.
Stay with us until the end and don’t miss out on crucial security measures you can implement. Otherwise, you could leave a loophole that hackers can exploit to steal your personal information.
Signs that someone is using your Social Security number
Knowledge is power. The sooner you can find out if your SSN is stolen, the faster you can act.
Here are the signs you need to be wary of:
There are changes in your email or postal mail
Your email is where you receive notifications from your bank or Social Security. If you suddenly stopped receiving your statements, invoices, or purchase alerts, someone might have stolen your identity using your SSN.
Identity thieves can also sign you up for accounts, and you might notice bizarre snail mail sent to your house address but under the name of strangers.
You receive password reset requests in your inbox
Your SSN can be a gateway to other information you have. If you receive random password reset requests for your social media accounts, bank apps, or email, your identity might have been stolen.
You saw withdrawals on your Social Security statement you didn’t make
If you’re receiving Social Security benefits, you should keep an eye on your SS statement. If someone has access to your SSN, they can withdraw your benefits.
So, if you notice withdrawals you didn’t make, it’s a clear sign that someone is using your SSN.
If you haven’t, create your my Social Security account, so you can easily check your records.
Your employment records show false entries
Someone can also use your Social Security number to apply for a job and pass the background check. If you notice any income reported on your personal statement, your SSN has been used fraudulently.
Your credit score suddenly changes
You’re a victim of SSN theft if you notice sudden changes to your credit score. The perpetrators will attempt to open new credit lines under your name, which may result in hard inquiries that can pull your score down.
If you’re not monitoring your score regularly and you got turned down for a new credit line you were applying for, it’s also a sign that someone has used your SSN which caused your score to drop.
You receive unexpected messages from credit agencies
Credit agencies might contact you to verify your information in line with a new credit account. If you don’t apply for one, it’s one of the surest signs that your SSN is stolen and someone is trying to get loans or credit cards under your name.
The IRS sends you a message
It’s important to note that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) doesn’t call people. If there’s any issue with your taxes, they’ll send a mail instead.
If you’re sure you’re updated with taxes so there shouldn’t be any issue with your record, you probably won’t receive any correspondence from the IRS. However, if you start receiving mail or it calls you all of a sudden, someone might have used your SSN to commit identity theft.
Someone claims your tax return
You can request a copy of your latest tax transcript from the IRS. If you notice that someone has submitted a fraudulent tax return under your name, you might be a victim of SSN theft.
Your bank records have inaccurate entries
Can someone access your bank account with your SSN? Yes, it’s possible, especially if they have your other personal information.
One of the main purposes of stealing Social Security numbers is to steal money. So, checking your bank records for inaccurate entries is one of the ways to find out if someone has used your SSN.
You might notice small amounts of purchases from your card or bank account, which is a sign that thieves are checking if they work. They’re testing if they can sign you up for accounts before they try to splurge your money.
What should you do if you become a victim of SSN identity theft?
If you notice any signs above happening to you, it’s time to act fast. Identity thieves can do so much damage and empty your bank account in just a short span of time.
So, how do you stop someone from using your Social Security number?
Here are a few steps to take:
1. Change your login credentials
With your SSN, thieves can find out your other personal information and try to access your accounts. If you suspect that someone is using your SSN, make sure that you change your login details in all of your accounts, including your email, mobile banking apps, online shopping, and social media.
Create a unique and strong password for each platform and never recycle your passwords.
It’s also important not to use personal details, like your parents’ names, pet names, schools you attended, names of your children, your name, and date of birth. These are pieces of information that they gather through your public records, so they can easily crack your passwords.
2. Report the theft to authorities immediately
If you’re a victim of SSN theft, report the case to the appropriate agencies. You should file a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
You can report identity theft and get a recovery plan with the FTC by following the steps outlined in its IdentityTheft.gov website. You can also call the FTC at 1-877-438-4338.
It’s also important to call the Social Security Administration (SSA) to report the fraud at 1-800-269-0271.
You should also file a report with the IRS’s Identity Theft Central to prevent the thieves from filing a fraudulent return or claiming your refund.
Filing a report with the local police department in your area can also help you as you go through the recovery process. The incident report may come in handy as a supporting document.
If you noticed inaccurate employment records or credit report pulls you don’t know about, you contact the company directly.
You should inform them of the fraud, so they can stop processing any ongoing application that the thieves have initiated under your name.
3. Set up a fraud alert or credit freeze
A fraud alert will notify you of suspicious attempts to open credit lines under your name, while a credit freeze will prevent access to your credit altogether.
You can request a fraud alert for free by contacting one of the three national credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. The credit bureau that you contacted must inform the other two about the fraud alert you placed.
A fraud alert on your credit is good for one year, but you can also place an extended fraud alert that lasts for seven years.
If you want to freeze your credit report instead, you must contact all three credit bureaus individually.
- Call Experian at 888‑397‑3742 or visit its credit freeze page and follow the instructions.
- Call Equifax at 1-866-478-0027 or visit its website to place a security freeze.
- Call TransUnion at 888-909-8872 or visit its credit freeze center.
4. Block access to your Social Security number
Can you put a freeze on your Social Security number? The truth is, there’s no such thing as SSN freeze the same way that you can freeze your credit.
What you can do is block electronic access to your SSN. It means your SSN will not be accessible via any automated telephone or electronic means. Not even you can see or make any changes to your personal information online or via automated phone service.
To request access block, call SSA’s National 800 number at 1-800-772-1213
or 1-800-325-0778 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday to Friday.
Once you’ve resolved your SSN theft issues, you can request to remove the block by calling the SSA. Remember that you must prove your identity.
How can you protect your Social Security number from theft?
If your suspicion about SSN theft is wrong, that’s a good thing. However, don’t let your guard down. It’s even more important now that you become diligent in handling your information and managing your accounts.
So, how do you protect your SSN? Here are some tips:
- Never carry your Social Security card in your purse or wallet.
- Don’t give your SSN easily to everyone who asks, even if it’s a legitimate business or agency. You must ask why they need your SSN, how it will be used, and what will happen if you refuse.
- Offer an alternative ID to your SS card if all they need it for is to confirm your identity.
- Beware of scams and phishing tactics. Know how to recognize the red flags, so you can avoid engaging in them. Never click a link or download an attachment from unverified sources.
Memorize your Social Security number. You can be creative with it so that you can easily remember your digits and you don’t have to carry any physical document that displays them.
Your Social Security number needs to stay safe from identity thieves, hackers, and scammers. If it gets compromised, it can lead to devastating consequences that can ruin your future.
Knowing when someone is using your SSN is one of your best lines of defense against huge damage. So keep in mind the tips above and stay vigilant. SSN identity theft can happen to anyone, but you can avoid it with proper knowledge and security measures.