A Social Security number (SSN) is probably the single most important government-issued identification document that a USA citizen can have. For this reason, it is a highly-prized target for criminals involved in identity fraud. With your SSN, a thief can do many things — ranging from opening bank accounts and credit cards in your name, to stealing your money and even your property — and if police are investigating, they will by necessity come for you first rather than the criminal who is the real culprit in the situation.
In 2019, the Social Security Administration estimated that $7.9 billion in fraudulent payments were made — this equates to an average cost of identity theft of over $1,000 per citizen. Javelin Strategy & Research have tracked the year-on-year increases in SSN fraud and how it has increasingly moved online via large scale data breaches and the inherent threats of online shopping — about which we at Trend Micro work hard to keep consumers informed. (Tips: 10 ways to protec your SSN) Interestingly, Javelin found that for the first time in 2017, the number of compromised SSNs in data breaches exceeded the number of compromised credit card numbers.
5 Steps you can take if someone is using your Social Security Number.
- Log-in to your personal my Social Security account and check your account statements. If you see any inconsistencies, contact the Social Security Administration.
- Place a “fraud alert” on your credit reports. You can request your free credit report via annualcreditreport.com from one of the three credit-reporting agencies, TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax.
- Visit IdentityTheft.gov to report the fraud to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and get help with the next steps. IdentityTheft.gov will also help you add a free extended fraud alert or credit freeze to your credit report. These make it more difficult for an identity thief to open new accounts in your name.
- File a police report. Be sure to retain records of communication and copies of the report.
- Report your identity theft to the Internet Crime Complaint Center. They will distribute your report to local, state, and federal authorities and create an official report.
Can I Get a New Social Security Number?
In serious cases of SSN fraud, it is possible to be allocated a new number. It is however, a very difficult, long and complicated process. You will have to prove that the theft of your SSN has caused you serious hardship (for example, denied mortgages and problems with law enforcement or the IRS) or that your resulting bad credit rating cannot be cleaned up.
In any case, there are major downsides to obtaining a new SSN. The primary issue is that your new number will have an empty credit history. You will find it difficult to borrow or do anything that requires a good credit score — starting from square one, it will take years to recover. It is entirely up to the Social Security Administration to decide whether or not to grant your request. The bottom line is that a compromised SSN can literally ruin your life — the best thing you can do is to protect yourself first: to prevent, rather than react.
An Extra Layer of Protection: Trend Micro ID Security
Here at Trend Micro, a world-leading cybersecurity company, we have an app specifically designed to meet the challenges that SSN theft brings. Available on Android and iOS, ID Security scours the dark web for any mention of your data (SSN, email address, passwords, codes etc.) in the event of it being sold or maliciously shared by cybercriminals. Its key features include:
- Dark Web Personal Data Manager: Scours the dark web for data such as bank account numbers, driver’s license numbers, passport numbers, and social security numbers.
- Credit Card Checker: Find out if someone has acquired your credit card number and put it on the dark web.
- Email Checker: Find out if any of your email addresses have been leaked to the dark web. You’ll be notified which exact account it is — so you can take the appropriate counter-measures.
- Password Checker: ID Security will notify you if you’re using a password currently in circulation on the dark web.
- Social Media Account Checker: Find out if your Facebook and Twitter Account have been breached and shared on the dark web.
- A Comprehensive Monitoring Report
Simple, efficient, and easy-to-use, follow this link or scan the QR code below to try the free 30-day trial version today! If this article has been of use and/or interest to you, please do SHARE it with family and friends.