Basic Facts About Social Security|
Social Security Payment|
Social Security Branch Offices|
Nearly all Americans have a Social Security number, printed on a simple name card-sized card and issued practically at birth. We live our entire lives with the same number, which becomes affiliated with our tax records, bank accounts, insurance policies, employment records, and a host of other matters. We can’t do anything without a Social Security number.
And, although many people tend to be careless with their numbers, in the past few decades, particularly with the rise of the Internet, criminals have learned how steal identities and profit from that simply by lifting a valid Social Security number and a few other pieces of information from an unsuspecting individual.
Getting a new card
What should you do if you have your Social Security card stolen from your wallet or your home? Getting a replacement card is easy enough — you can apply at the Social Security Administration’s website, or visit your local SSA service center. You’ll need to fill out a form (downloadable at the SSA website) and provide a few documents.
More important, however, you should file a fraud alert with one or more of the major credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. These agencies compile credit information on consumers, to help lenders assess creditworthiness. And check your financial activity as monitored by the three agencies; if there’s any activity that you did not initiate or authorize, then alert the agency immediately.
Identity theft is a widespread phenomenon; with your Social Security number and scattered other information about you, a thief can open a bank account or credit card account, or even take out a bank loan, in your name. If you have your Social Security card stolen along with other documents such as credit cards or bank account numbers, you should take the matter very seriously. The three major credit reporting agencies, as well as a number of other private companies, offer credit monitoring services, in which they track your credit activity on a daily basis and immediately report any suspicious activity. It may be worth signing up for such a service, at least until you regain confidence in the integrity of your credit activity.
If you believe that someone is using your information fraudulently, you can also contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC); their website has special pages on identity theft, giving valuable advice on how to deter, detect, and defend against identity thieves. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) also has an Identity Protection Unit; an identity thief may attempt to file a fraudulent tax return in your name in an effort to generate a tax refund. And you can file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), at . IC3 is a leading organization countering cybercrime, and they will refer your report to relevant law enforcement and regulatory agencies.
A New Social Security Number
Do you need a new Social Security number? Because this number is associated with so many different facets of your financial life, changing numbers is truly a cumbersome process, and the SSA will not issue a new number simply because you request one. You must have firm evidence that someone else is using your number fraudulently, and that you are being disadvantaged by this misuse. Once you have a new number, it will be your responsibility to inform all the various organizations that may have your old number on file — from the credit agencies and the IRS to your local motor vehicle bureau.
Problems With a New Social Security Number
And there may be unforeseen consequences to having a new Social Security number. Because your good credit history will be tied to your old number, this history may be erased once you report your new number. You’ll have a clean slate, but the absence of a good credit history may prevent you from getting favorable rates on loans. So, even you are the victim of identity theft, think hard before applying for a new Social Security number. There may be other ways to counter the problem.