Home > Identity Theft > Oops. I Gave My Social Security Number to a Stranger

Comments 0 Comments

Life can get hectic and, while media attention on big data breaches has certainly put folks on high alert, there are times when you slip and give some of your personal information away.

Lots of this info, like your credit card account and health insurance ID, can be changed with relative ease. There are nine little digits you’re stuck with, however, that can cause a whole lot of headaches when they fall into the wrong hands. Those digits, of course, are your Social Security number.

Am I Stuck With My Number?

If your Social Security number has been put to nefarious use, you can try to have it changed. SSA.gov lists an identity theft victim continuing to be disadvantaged by “the original number” as one of five cases in which they’ll consider assigning new digits. Per their site, you’ll need to do the following in order to qualify:

  • Apply in person at a Social Security office.
  • Provide a statement explaining the reasons for needing a new number.
  • Provide current, credible, third-party evidence documenting the reasons for needing a new number.
  • Provide original documents establishing U.S. citizenship or work-authorized immigration status; age; identity and evidence of a legal name change, if appropriate.

According to Adam Levin, co-founder of Credit.com and author of “Swiped: How to Protect Yourself in a World Full of Scammers, Phishers, and Identity Thieves,” it can be difficult, if not downright impossible, to get a new number. And even if you do qualify, you may want to consider the impact of making a switch. In many cases, employment information and medical records are associated with your former Social Security number.

What If a Stranger Has My SSN?

If you know your Social Security number has been compromised, you should do a credit freeze, Levin said. Credit freezes let consumers deny potential creditors access to their credit reports, and, as such, prevent new accounts from being taken out in their name, especially when their credit is frozen at each major credit reporting agency.

Of course, a credit freeze will also make it harder to take out new lines of credit. You would have to thaw your report and then refreeze it (often for a price) before applying for a loan. Levin said you can lessen the hassle by asking a prospective creditor what bureau they use to check credit. If there’s only one, you’ll just have to thaw your report with that bureau.

If you’re hesitant to freeze your reports, at the very least, you should keep a close eye on your credit. You can sign up for credit monitoring or fraud alerts with each bureau, and you can check your credit yourself. (You can pull your credit reports for free each year at AnnualCreditReport.com and view your credit score for free each month on Credit.com.) Signs your identity has been stolen include unfamiliar addresses and accounts, and a sudden drop in your credit score.

Dealing With Identity Theft

Keep in mind “just doing a credit freeze and just monitoring isn’t going to help you in certain situations,” Levin warned, especially when it comes to a compromised Social Security number. Keeping an eye on your credit, for instance, won’t alert you to medical identity theft, taxpayer fraud or, worse, any criminal activity linked to your name.

To minimize the damage any of these examples could cause, you’ll need to stay vigilant. Keep a close eye on statements, like any bills or explanation of benefits your insurer sends your way. You can file your taxes early to avoid a stolen refund, and contact the IRS to flag your account, Levin said (although this is not fail-safe).

If you do fall victim to identity theft, you’ll want to report the fraud to the proper authorities: File a police report and register a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Some states also give victims special documentation that identify them as an identity theft victim and can help reverse fraud stemming from it, Levin said. These ID cards can often be obtained by contacting the state attorney general’s office. You can learn more about dealing with identity theft here.

[Offer: If you’re a victim of identity theft, worried about errors on your credit reports and you don’t want to go it alone, you can hire companies – like our partner Lexington Law – to manage the credit repair process for you. Learn more about them here or call them at (844) 346-3296 for a free consultation.]

More on Identity Theft:

Image: idealistock

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other articles on Credit.com News & Advice may also be offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com will be compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards or products. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Our Owners

Credit.com is owned by Progrexion Holdings Inc. which is the owner and administrator of a number of business related to credit and credit repair, including CreditRepair.com, and eFolks. In addition, Progrexion also provides services to Lexington Law Firm as a third party provider. Despite being owned by Progrexion, it is not the role of the Credit.com editorial team to advocate the use of the company’s other services. In articles, reporters may mention credit repair as an option, for example, but we’ll also be sure to note the various alternatives to that service. Furthermore, you may see ads for credit repair services on Credit.com, but the editorial team isn’t responsible for the creation or implementation of those ads, anymore than reporters for the New York Times or Washington Post are responsible for the ads on their sites.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team