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Help! I Used the Wrong Social Security Number

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After ignoring his credit for too long, a reader, Steve, decided to do something to build it. He now has two credit cards, but neither is on his credit report. He called both companies, and it appears that his Social Security number (SSN) is off by a digit. His question: How do I fix this?

Another reader, Teo, said his Social Security number was also off by a digit and he was worried that someone else was getting credit for his account.

We wondered what might be going on, and we asked Norm Magnuson, vice president of public affairs for the Consumer Data Industry Association.

He said that without knowing details, his best guess is this:

“An SSN that is off by one digit is often the result of input error, either by the consumer, the lender or the credit bureau. It should be easily corrected by notifying the [credit card issuer] of the mistake. Or the consumer can file a dispute with the credit bureau, which will send the information to the lender to be corrected. If all the other identifying information matches up, it will be corrected. The only concern the lender would have is ID fraud, but it shouldn’t be a concern here.”

So although the situations are unusual, you can take the same steps to solve the problem as if you had found any inaccurate information on a credit report — you dispute it.

Though it’s frustrating to get a card to build credit and then not see it on your credit report, it’s possible the creditor waits until the account is actually used to report it, Magnuson said.

As for Teo’s concern that someone else is getting credit that is rightfully his, Magnuson said it’s very unlikely. “I doubt that anyone else is getting credit based on a transposed SSN. All of the other data would match and if a lender received a credit app, it would provide that information to the credit bureau. The bureau then matches the data it receives with its credit files to pull down the correct one. In this case, it would pull the report even though the SSN was incorrect because all the other information is correct. If credit bureaus had to rely on an exact match for every data element, there would be more instances of ‘no match’. Why? Because of a scenario like this,” he said in an email.

So what should Steve and Teo do? The first thing would be to contact the credit card issuers and ask them to correct the Social Security numbers. Once that is done, the credit reports should take care of themselves, assuming the card issuers report to the credit bureaus. If they do, the entire account history will likely be reported when the mistake is fixed, so these cardholders won’t lose out on any credit due to the mistake.

It’s not so uncommon to find a mistake on your credit report, which is why it’s a good idea to check your credit reports regularly. If you do find a mistake, be sure to make sure it’s corrected as soon as possible so it doesn’t affect your credit standing. You can also monitor your credit scores for changes that can alert you to a problem with your credit — there are many ways you can check your credit scores for free, including through Credit.com.

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Image: Denys Kurbatov

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  • heavyw8t

    I have to wonder how, once the credit bureau starts getting reports from the credit card(s) in question, nobody would notice that the social security number cross references to a different name. Even if it’s one digit off, someone else has that SSN. It seems like when the credit bureau punches in that SSN they would see a different name and start asking questions. After years in IT and a great deal of familiarity with how databases work, I can’t really see something like that going undetected.

  • heavyw8t

    After years in IT and a lot of experience with databases, the logic seems that when one end enters a SSN, the other would see that the name doesn’t match the SSN provided and cause a flag. I am having a hard time seeing how this could happen.

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