Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the country, and nearly one third of all adults in the United States have experienced some form of identity fraud. Safeguarding your Social Security number is one of the best ways to keep your identity safe. When a thief gets access to your SSN, they can open new bank accounts, drain existing finances, file fraudulent tax returns, and take many other nefarious actions. So, how do you know if someone is using your Social Security number before it is too late? There are some steps you can take to stay alert and make sure that no one is using your Social Security number.
How Do You Check To See If Someone Has Been Using Your Social Security Number?
In today’s electronic world, it has become even easier for thieves to gain access to your sensitive personal information. Thousands of data breaches occur each year, and this only makes it more and more likely that you will become the victim of ID theft. All it takes is a scammer gaining access to your Social Security number, and then they are off to the races! These identity thieves show no mercy, and they can quickly wreck your finances.
There are steps you should take to make sure that no one has gained unauthorized access to your SSN. Staying ahead of things can make it much easier to fix any problems that might arise if you do happen to fall victim to Social Security identity theft. Here are some of the things that you need to do to see if someone is using your Social Security number.
You must keep a close eye on your credit report. You can obtain a free copy at annualcreditreport.com, and you should check it regularly. This is one of the first ways that you will notice someone has gained access to your SSN and is using it to open new accounts. Next, sign up for a My Social Security account at SSA.gov to view your latest Social Security statement. You can verify your earnings and work history to make sure that nothing suspicious appears there. It is also a good idea to get a copy of your latest tax transcript from the IRS. This will let you know whether anyone other than you has filed a tax return using your SSN.
In addition, you should monitor your credit score to make sure that it does not suddenly change for no apparent reason. Finally, watch your snail mail and email for suspicious signs. If you stop receiving items that you normally get like bank statements or account documents or you begin receiving items that you never signed up for, then you should do some further investigation.
5 Signs That Your Social Security Number Has Been Stolen
If you know what to watch for, there are some telltale signs out there that might signal to you that your SSN has been compromised. Help protect yourself from becoming a victim of identity theft by watching for these five things.
1. “Password Reset” Emails In Your Inbox
If you begin receiving mysterious password reset emails, then this could signal a problem. This could be a sign that someone is attempting to change the password to your accounts without your knowledge. Never click on the links in these emails. It could be a phishing scam designed to capture your SSN or other sensitive information. If the email is from an account or company you recognize, then you should log on directly to their website and change your password immediately. If someone has gained access to your account, then changing your password should keep them out going forward.
2. Significant Changes In Your Credit Score
Your credit score is how the credit reporting agencies like Transunion, Equifax, and Experian track your credit history and creditworthiness. Your score is based on a number of factors like the length of time you have had credit, how much outstanding debt you have, and how many new accounts you have opened recently. If your score changes significantly, then it might be a sign that someone is using your SSN to open new credit accounts. If you notice this sudden change, then you should immediately get a copy of your credit report and examine it for accounts that do not belong to you.
3. Inaccurate Banking Records
When a thief gains access to your Social Security number, they can also gain access to your bank accounts. If you notice discrepancies starting to show up in your financial information, then someone might have your SSN. Once they gain access to your accounts, they can move money to other accounts, wire money out of your account, sign up for new debit cards, and perform other actions that could be detrimental to your finances. As soon as you notice these inaccuracies, you should contact your bank’s fraud department immediately.
4. Letters In The Mail From The IRS Or The Bank
For whatever reason, the Internal Revenue Service will never contact you via phone. They will always communicate through the mail, so if you receive a letter from them, then that should be a red flag. Unless you have tax trouble, then communication from the IRS could signal problems. Someone might be using your SSN to illegally obtain tax refunds or perform other fraudulent activity. Letters from your bank could be a sign of similar problems.
5. Fraudulent Tax Returns
This activity is becoming more common in recent years. Someone gains access to your SSN, and then files fraudulent tax returns in your name to gain access to fraudulent tax refunds. The taxpayer is often unaware that this has happened until they attempt to file their legal tax returns. In some cases, it might even be a year or more before they realize anything has happened. If fraudulent returns have been filed using your SSN, then you can be certain that someone is using your SSN illegally. You should then take all the appropriate steps to protect yourself from additional fraud.
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.
1. Report The Identity Theft Immediately
You should immediately report the theft to all the proper agencies right away. Start with your local police department. While your local law enforcement might not be able to find out who is responsible, having that police report or theft affidavit is very important when you attempt to correct things on the back end. In addition, you should notify the IRS, Social Security Administration, and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) of the theft.
2. Freeze Your Accounts
Freezing your accounts can help keep you safe from additional fraud. Notify your bank and the major credit bureaus that your SSN has been compromised. Call your credit card company to put a freeze on your card and any additional credit. Placing a freeze on your credit prevents anyone from opening new accounts in your name. Similarly, you may choose to place a fraud alert on your SSN with the credit agencies. This fraud alert notifies them that your SSN has been compromised, and they will attempt to contact you before allowing anyone to open credit in your name.
3. Request A Replacement Social Security Card
If you had your Social Security card stolen or simply lost your SS card, then you will need to get a replacement card. In many states, you can replace a lost or stolen card online using your My Social Security account and uploading a copy of your driver’s license. If you are in a state that cannot use the online service, the card can be requested at your local Social Security office or through the mail using a paper application. In most cases, you will keep your same SSN. However, if the fraud has become bad enough, the SSA will issue you a new Social Security number when warranted.
Your Social Security number is one of the most important identification methods out there and essentially holds your entire financial history and future. If someone gains access to your SSN, they can use it to carry out fraud and other crimes. Thankfully, there are things that you can do to determine whether someone has been using your SSN illegally. Keep an eye out for the signs listed in this article and perform regular observations of your free credit report. Signing up for a credit monitoring or identity protection service is also a great idea because the service will notify you immediately if someone uses your number to obtain credit. Stay vigilant and you can keep yourself protected!
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you put an alert on your Social Security number?
If you want to place a fraud alert on your Social Security number, you simply need to contact one of the three credit reporting agencies. Tell them you want to place a fraud alert on your SSN, and they will notify the other two agencies. Make sure the credit bureau has your latest contact information on file because they will need to contact you if anyone attempts to use your SSN. This service is free of charge, and the alert lasts for one year. You should be aware that your Social Security number cannot be suspended. If you receive a call stating such, you should hang up immediately because it is a scam.
How do you check to see if someone stole your identity?
Maybe you’re asking yourself how to check if someone is using my identity? The best way to check for identity theft is by checking your credit report. If anyone has used your SSN to open accounts or obtain credit in your name, then those records will appear on your credit report. If you notice anything on your report that you did not do, then someone likely has your SSN and is using it to conduct fraud. You can also check your Social Security statement to make sure that it is accurate and request a tax transcript from the IRS to make sure that no one has filed false tax returns using your SSN.
Can someone access my bank account with my Social Security number?
It is very possible that someone can access your accounts with your SSN. They could call your bank and pretend to be you to gain access to your accounts. The bank typically verifies your identity by asking for your SSN or the last four digits of your SSN. If the thief has this information, then the bank might give out account information to them. Once the thief gains access to your account, they can move or withdraw money and drain your finances very quickly.
Where do I report fake Social Security calls?
You should report fake Social Security calls to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). You can use the Scam Reporting Form on their website to report these calls. Providing as much detail as possible will help the SSA investigate these calls and attempt to find the parties responsible for the calls. You can also notify the FTC of these calls, although they encourage you to make your report to the OIG. You can also report Social Security fraud to the OIG Social Security fraud hotline at 1-800-269-0271.
What can someone do with your Social Security number?
There are many things that someone can do with your SSN, and none of them are good. They can gain access to your banking or financial accounts as well as open new accounts in your name. Getting a loan, obtaining credit cards, or applying for other types of credit are just a few examples. In addition, they can file fraudulent tax returns with the IRS and even claim your My Social Security account to manipulate your Social Security statements and work history.
What is a phishing scam?
A phishing scam is performed either over the phone or through email. The scammer attempts to “fish” for your personal information. They do this by tricking you into believing the communication is from a trusted source. For example, they might send an email that appears to be from your bank asking you to verify your SSN or account number. If you send this information, the scammer will have access to it and can use it for improper purposes. If you get any suspicious calls or emails, you should not respond to them. Instead, contact your financial institution directly to determine whether it is a valid communication.
What are the consequences of someone using my Social Security number?
So, what can someone do with your SSN? The consequences of someone using your SSN can be dire. At the least, your credit score might be affected by someone opening unauthorized credit in your name. On the other end of the spectrum, your bank accounts could be drained – even including retirement accounts and other savings. This is why it is vitally important for you to be vigilant in protecting your SSN and keeping a watchful eye on all the signs that might point toward illegal usage.