Identity theft has always been a major issue. As thieves become more and more technically advanced, the options available for stealing personal information grow accordingly. Social security theft should therefore, be a point of concern for anyone with a social security number.
What is a Social Security Number?
For governmental purposes, a social security number is a method of tracking. It allows officials to follow the actions of, and provide social benefits to, card holders. For the average citizen, a social security number is typically important for matters of living. You need a social security number to legally hold a job, open a bank or credit account, or even own a car.
What can a thief do with a Social Security Number?
Social security numbers act as identifiers. They are the basic form of official identification in a given country. With a social security number in hand, a thief can obtain more information about the original cardholder, dishonestly apply for jobs, or even apply for extra credit or loans using the original cardholder’s credit rating. If the number’s original owner is not notified of the unpaid use of credit, their credit rating can crumble.
What should be done to protect a Social Security Number?
Countries that employ social security numbers have, in the past few years, attempted to introduce other methods of identification to curtail the loss of social security numbers. To that end, it’s a good idea to only present a social security number when there’s no other alternative.
Additionally, it’s important to never do any of the following:
– Share a social security number with an unfamiliar or untrustworthy third party
– Store or transmit a social security number electronically
– Keep a social security card in a wallet or purse – store it in a safe, static location until it’s needed
What should be done if a Social Security Number is stolen?
It can be difficult to determine when a social security number has been stolen, especially if the card itself was not taken. If you suspect that someone has your number, it’s important to take the following steps:
– Immediately report the theft to a credit reporting agency. Let them know as much as you can about the theft. They will place a fraud alert on your credit report, preventing unpaid bills from ruining your credit rating. In the United States, there are three different companies you can contact: TransUnion, Equifax, or Experian.
– Request a credit report detailing recent transactions using your credit rating. You can use this to track the transactions of the thief and curtail any possible misuse of your social security number. Ask for new reports every few weeks.
– Contact your credit or banking companies and alert them to the potential for fraudulent activity. They may be able to shut down newly-opened accounts created using your social security number, and can freeze your existing accounts.
– Notify your country’s trade commission. Typically these commissions will not deal with separate cases, but providing your information may lead to a full investigation to catch the perpetrator. In the United States, this is the Federal Trade Commission.
– Notify local police if your social security number is used fraudulently. Again, this may lead to an investigation and an arrest, especially if the use of your number is extensive. Filing a police report can also allow you to extend the initial fraud alert on your credit rating.
– If your Social Security number has been thoroughly misused, consider applying for a new number. This should be considered as an extreme step only, since all charges and credit problems related with the old number will still carry over to the new number.
The key to curtailing social security theft, or any kind of identity theft, is to act quickly. Notify the proper authorities as soon as you notice problems with your credit rating or other evidence of identity theft. The longer you wait to file reports, the less government officials can do to save your flagging security status.