Home > Identity Theft > I Gave My Social Security Number to a Scammer, Now What?

Comments 3 Comments

Let’s face it: your Social Security number is probably out there somewhere. This federal identification number is used for so many purposes—from tax forms to credit apps to student information forms—that it exists in myriads of places. And while organizations that ask for personally identifying information, including your Social Security number (SSN), do have an obligation to keep it as secure as possible, mistakes and cyberattacks happen. Sometimes, the person who gives up your SSN to a scammer is you.

Find out what to do if you’re a victim of identity fraud, and learn about Social Security number fraud and how to avoid it in the future.

What Happens if You Accidentally Give Someone Your Social Security Number?

No matter how or why it happened, if you give your SSN to someone you suspect might be a scammer—or think that your SSN has been stolen for any other reason—take action quickly. You could become a victim of identity theft. First, order your free annual credit reports to ensure nothing is amiss right now with your accounts. If you find anything, consider working with professionals such as Lexington Law to address errors on your report.

Next, take actions to protect yourself against fraudulent activity or identity theft in the future. Consider putting a fraud alert on your credit files. This lasts for 90 days and lets potential creditors know to take extra steps to verify your identity when a credit app is processed. It means you’ll have to jump through additional hoops if you apply for credit yourself, but the peace of mind may be worth it.

You can also invest in other identity theft protection products. These range from monitoring services that alert you to any new activity to credit locks that make it impossible for anyone—including you—to open a new account in your name until the lock is lifted.

If you’re worried about someone having your Social Security number because you misplaced your card, then follow the correct channels for reporting the loss and requesting a new card. You’ll still need to follow the steps above, because SSNs don’t work like credit card numbers. The Social Security office doesn’t close your account and issue you a brand-new number if identity theft occurs. They simply send you a new card.

How Do I Check to See if Someone Is Using My Social Security Number?

Unfortunately, the only way to know if someone has your social security number is if they put it to use. Identity thieves might use your SSN to get medical care under your name, open accounts in your name, file for a tax refund or steal your government benefits. Checking your credit reports, monitoring your federal and state tax accounts and keeping an eye on all your other accounts is typically the best proactive defense. Once you believe you’re a victim of SSN theft, take action to report it and deal with it immediately.

Can My Social Security Number Be Suspended?

No, the Social Security office doesn’t suspend numbers. Calls that tell you your SSN number may be blocked or suspended for any reason are a scam. This is a common phone scam that involves a person asking you for personal information, including your SSN, so they can work with you to resolve the issue. In some cases, the person asks you to pay a fee to have your SSN reinstated.

The true result of these scams is that your identity is stolen and used for fraudulent purposes. In cases where you provide a credit card or banking account number to pay the fee, the scammers may clean out your account or run up charges on your card.

Does Social Security Ever Contact You By Phone?

The Social Security Administration confirms that in some special cases, it does contact people by phone in order to handle customer service matters. The representative may ask you to confirm some personal information so they know they can speak with you. However, the rep also provides a name and phone extension.

One of the best ways to ensure you are talking to someone with the SSA and not a scammer is simply to tell the individual you will hang up and call back. Ask for the person’s extension and call the SSA customer service phone line at 1-800-772-1213. Dial the extension, and if you get to the same person, the call is legitimate. If not, it could be a social security scam.

The SSA notes that it never demands an immediate payment from people on the phone, and it always provides an appeals process if a debt is believed to be owed. The SSA also doesn’t accept forms of payments such as gift cards or threaten people with deportation or arrest. These are signs that it might be a scam.

Better Safe than Sorry: An SSN Motto

Because SSNs are used for so many purposes, it’s typically better to play it safe. If you have any reason to believe your personal information has been breached or is being used fraudulently, consider signing up for services at Credit.com to get ahead of any issues or enjoy peace of mind. You’ll be able to keep an eye out for any suspicious activity.

 

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.

  • Angelo_Frank

    The IRS advises you file your taxes at the earliest opportunity, generally the first day the IRS begins processing returns, before a scofflaw has the chance to file for a refund using your SSN. If you try to file after the the scammer has done so, the IRS rejects your return. It generally takes months to correct the whole mess.

  • Lee

    You use the words “aggressive” and “serious” for freezing your credit. I froze mine five years ago and I call it “peace of mind” not worrying about my credit from being misused. I don’t mind paying that one-time fee of $10 per bureau (or less in some states) and I still get my credit score on my Discover statement. You also recommend freezing if you feel your credit is being misused by a thief. I think that’s too late. I want my credit frozen so it can’t be misused. If I need to apply for credit (which I don’t anticipate) I can easily thaw it for a simple fee to the bureau that the creditor will use. I also don’t need to pay for credit monitoring since no thief can open credit with my SSN. (Temporary) fraud alerts don’t guarantee that a bureau will contact the others. Again, alerts can be too late.

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Thanks for your perspective!

Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other sponsored content on Credit.com are Partners with Credit.com. Credit.com receives compensation if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any financial products or cards offered.

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.



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