As people with little privacy, celebrities are at high risk for becoming victims of identity theft. That is, they’re already at risk without having their Social Security numbers shared with the world, so if that happens, they’re practically certain to see problems with their credit.
Rapper Nicki Minaj learned this firsthand recently, when a media outlet published an old booking photo of her from 2003 and didn’t redact her Social Security Number. Her credit score dropped more than 100 points after that, as a result of excessive inquiries on her credit report, Radar Online reports.
To have your Social Security number made public is a huge problem. (In a weird but true story, this happened to one woman due to a wallet manufacturer’s error in 1938, and 40,000 people ended up using her number over several decades. Though it didn’t cause her a credit nightmare.) Even though credit reporting agencies noticed the flurry of activity on Minaj’s number and notified her representatives, that doesn’t reverse the damage fraudsters have done. She should be able to correct the errors, but identity theft resolution often takes months, if not longer, depending on how long the fraud went on.
We don’t know the details of Minaj’s financial life, but it’s unlikely credit issues would cause a successful celebrity as much trouble as they would an average citizen, who may rely on their credit standing to access loans and other day-to-day services that are tied to credit scores, like insurance rates and utilities.
Celebrity or not, an exposed Social Security number is a lifelong issue.
“That’s probably the single most dangerous piece of personally identifying information, and it’s an irresistible piece of information for identity thieves,” said Adam Levin, identity theft expert and chairman and co-founder of Credit.com. “The Social Security Administration will almost never change a Social Security number, so you’re kind of stuck with it for life, the ramifications.”
It seems Minaj’s identity theft was spotted fairly quickly, probably because of the scale of the fraud, but many fraud victims don’t discover the crime until more than a year after it started. One way to minimize the chances of undetected fraud is to regularly check your accounts and credit scores for signs of it. For instance, if you were in Minaj’s situation but hadn’t been notified by someone else of the credit issues, you wouldn’t know your score dropped 100 points in a month and, consequently, wouldn’t know about the fraud.
By checking your credit scores regularly, you will notice sudden score changes, look into the causes, stop further damage from happening and quickly start the repair process. It’s also important to look at the data your credit scores are based on: your credit reports. Everyone is entitled to free copies of their annual credit reports, and you can get two of your credit scores for free every month through Credit.com.
There’s more than your credit at risk when someone steals your Social Security number. The thief may commit crimes in your name or seek medical attention using your identity, meaning your criminal or medical records may not be accurate, which is extremely dangerous.
“You can do everything right, but unfortunately, the critical infromation about you will make it much easier for someont to masquerade as you,” Levin said. “It’s very tough to protect yourself.”
More on Credit Reports & Credit Scores:
- What’s a Good Credit Score?
- How to Get Your Free Annual Credit Report
- How Credit Impacts Your Day-to-Day Life