The Dangers of Social Security Number Identity Theft

If you've been keeping up with the news, you realize that identity theft is one of the fastest rising crimes in the United States.  If you are not careful, a dishonest individual who has access to your Social Security number can use it with malicious intent to learn more of your personal information.  These people can also use the number to apply for credit in your name.  After being issued dozens of credit cards, they will quickly charge them up, leaving you with the bills and a horrible grade of credit.  The most troubling part of it all - you probably will not be aware that someone is using your Social Security number until being denied for credit or receiving numerous calls from unknown creditors and agencies requesting payment for purchases you never made.  

How Social Security Numbers Aid in Identity Theft 

Identity thieves will utilize various strategies to victimize you.  Here are a just a few of the many ways they can steal your Social Security number and other important information:

           stealing a wallet, purse, or intercepting mail 

           stealing information you entered on an unsecured internet website

           dumpster diving through your trash in pursuit of personal information 

           parading as a legitimate service over the phone or email to pry information out of you

           purchasing lists on the black market provided by inside sources 

Someone Using Your Number?

In some cases, a single Social Security number is assigned to more than one person.  This is either done by accident or with malicious intent.  If you feel that someone is fraudulently using your number for any purpose, you should immediately contact your local Social Security Administration office and report the issue. 

If an identity thieve has stolen your Social Security number and created major credit problems, the administration will not be able to resolve the matter.  At that point, you should refer to the Federal Trade Commission for help.

In a worse case scenario, you may be forced to apply for a new Social Security card and number.  This requires that you supply evidence of being negatively effected by the current number.  You should also keep in mind that a different number may create many new issues.  It is very likely that agencies such as the IRS and credit report bureaus will still reference the other number, a factor that can result in major conflict.  The absence of credit history relating to the new number can also make it rather difficult to attain credit.    

Just as the Social Security Administration is responsible for keeping your number and records confidential, you should do the same.  The administration is prohibited from giving your number to anyone who does not have lawful access.  When conducting activity that calls for submitting your Social Security number, you should always ask why the number is needed, how it would be used, and what are the repercussions if you refuse.  These answers should help you determine the legitimacy of the activity and if you should actually give out the number. 

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In 2003, more than 10 million Americans fell victim to identity theft.

Identity theft costs business and individuals $53 billion dollars annually

In 2003, Americans spent 300 million hours resolving issues related to identity theft.

70% of all identity theft cases are perpetrated by a co-worker or employee of an affiliated business.