Identity theft is a serious issue, and if you suspect you are the victim of it you should address the problem immediately. If someone gets access to your Social Security number, he can use it to commit all types of fraud, such as opening a credit card in your name and charging thousands of dollars to the account. Identity theft can cost you money, ruin your credit and even disrupt day-to-day living. Stay alert to any signs that someone is using your Social Security number.
Signs That Someone May Be Using Your Social Security Number
Unexpected phone calls or strange letters in the mail can all be signs that someone has taken your Social Security number,
The most common signs that you should be on the lookout for are:
- Calls from Creditors: If you know that you don't owe a particular debt or aren't late on any payments, but you get calls fromcreditors or collection agencies about unpaid debt, this could be a sign that someone has taken out a credit card using your Social Securitynumber.
- Problems Filing Your Taxes: If you file your tax return with the IRS and receive an error notice that someone hasalready filed taxes in your name, this can be a sign that your SocialSecurity number was stolen. You might also receive a notice of unreportedincome when you know that you reported every cent you earned.
- Lower-than-Expected Credit Score: If you're rejected for a credit card application and know that you have good credit, this can also be a sign that someone is using credit cards in your name and lowering your credit score.
Checking for Credit Theft
If you suspect your Social Security number is being used for credit card fraud, check for this by reviewing your credit report. Look at every new account that's been opened and make sure you recognize each one. Look at all recent credit inquiries and review whether you authorized them. You should monitor your reports for six months because a new credit account may take this long to show up. Check your credit reports from the three major agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
Checking for False Employment Records
People may also obtain your Social Security number so they can use it to get a job or pass a background check. Checking for this type of use is easy because any income someone earns through your SSN will be reported to the federal government. Simply create an account at the Social Security website. Once you've created your account, you can check all income that has been posted to your record. If you see any earnings that are incorrect, contact the Social Security Administration office.
Checking for False Tax Reports
Typically, you'll realize someone has filed a false tax return with the IRS or a false income report when you receive a notice stating that more than one return has been filed for you or that you have unreported income. You may also get a notice that your refund has been offset, meaning you can't get the full refund amount. If any of these things happen, you should call the number on the IRS notice and let the agent there know about it. You will then be asked to file an IRS Form 14039, which verifies that your identity was stolen and the information provided was incorrect.
If You Suspect Theft
If you suspect that you're the victim of identity theft, report the theft to your local police, the IRS or the SSA, depending on the type of theft. In addition, report the fraud to the Federal Trade Commission's theft hotline and, if a false credit card has been opened in your name, contact the relevant bank. In all likelihood, you will never know exactly who stole your Social Security number. However, by reporting your suspicions to the proper agencies right away, you can stop the theft and reverse any damage that has been done.