Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America. When a dishonest person has your Social Security number, the thief can use it to get other personal information about you. Most of the time, identity thieves use your number and good credit to apply for more credit in your name. Then they use the credit cards and do not pay the bills. You don't find out that someone is using your credit until you are turned down for credit or you begin to get calls from unknown creditors demanding payment for items you never bought. Here are some tips to prevent identity theft.
Your number is confidential
You should be careful about sharing your social security number with anyone who asks for it (even when you are provided with a benefit or service.)
Don't make it easy for someone to steal your number
Identity thieves get your personal information by:
- Stealing wallets, purses and your mail (bank & credit card statements, pre-approved credit offers, telephone calling cards & tax information)
- Stealing personal information you provide to an unsecured site on the Internet, from business or personnel records at work and personal information in your home
- Sorting through trash for personal data
- Posing as someone who legitimately needs information about you, such as employers or landlords
- Buying personal information from "inside" sources. For example, an identity thief may pay a store employee for information about you that appears on an application for goods, services or credit.
Be careful with your Social Security card and number to prevent theft
Show your card to your employer when you start a job so your records are correct. Then, put it in a safe place. DO NOT carry your card with you.
How can I report that someone is using my Social Security number?
You should file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission by:
- Internet: www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft
- Telephone: 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338)
- TTY: 1-866-653-4261
If you think someone is using your number for work purposes, you should contact Social Security. One way to find out whether someone is using your number in order to work is to check your Social Security Statement. This statement lists earnings posted to your Social Security record. If you find an error on your Statement, contact Social Security immediately.
What if I think someone is using my number and creating credit problems for me?
If someone used your social security number to get credit, Social Security cannot fix your credit record. To fix your credit record:
- Call the creditors who approved the credit (follow up with a letter.)
- File a police report.
- Contact the fraud department of the major credit bureaus. Ask: 1. To have a flag placed on your record, requiring creditors to contact you before approving additional credit using your name and number. 2. How long your account will be flagged and how you can extend the flag, if necessary. 3. To have a statement added to your credit report--include your name, explain the problem and provide a telephone number where someone can call you.
Obtain a copy of your Credit Report
Request a copy of your credit report from each major credit bureau and check to see if it contains any entries you do not know about. If you are denied credit, you may be entitled to a free copy of your report.
The major credit reporting agencies are:
- Report fraud: 1-800-525-6285,
- Order credit report: 1-800-685-1111.
- PO BOX 740241, Atlanta GA 30375-0241
- Report fraud: 1-888-397-3742
- Order credit report: 1-888-EXPERIAN
- PO BOX 1017, Allen TX 75013-0949
- Report fraud: 1-800-680-7289
- Order credit report: 1-800-916-8800
- Fraud Victim Assistance Dept. PO BOX 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834
Getting a New Social Security Number
If you have done all you can to fix the problem and someone is still using your number, Social Security may assign you a new number. They can help you complete an application but cannot guarantee that a new number will solve your problem.
You cannot get a new Social Security number if:
- You filed for bankruptcy
- You intent to avoid the law or your legal responsibility
- Your social security card is lost or stolen, but there is no evidence that someone is using your number.
Contacting Social Security:
The social security website is a valuable resource for information about all Social Security programs. http://www.ssa.gov/
In addition to using the website, you can call toll-free 1-800-772-1213. Hours are 7 a.m. - 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Information is also provided by automated phone service 24 hours a day.
Source: Social Security website: http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/10064.html/