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. There are a few common signs that you should be on the lookout for. The first is sudden 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 from creditors or collection agencies about unpaid debt, this could be a sign that someone has taken out a credit card using your Social Security number. The second red flag is problems filing your taxes. If you file your tax return with the IRS and receive an error notice that someone has already filed taxes in your name, this can be a sign that your Social Security number was stolen. You might also receive a notice of unreported income when you know that you reported every cent you earned. Finally, a lower-than-expected credit score can signal trouble. 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.
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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. Consider also adding a free fraud alert on your credit reports through one of the three major credit reporting agencies. This will last for 90 days and can be renewed.
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've been a victim of fraud through the IRS, you can get an Identity Protection Pin to add extra protection against a second attempt.
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.
If you want to keep a constant eye on potential identity theft, consider signing up for an identity monitoring service such as Lifelock. These services will alert you if someone has tried to open a credit card in your name or under your Social Security number.
- FTC: Tax-Related Identity Theft
- Federal Trade Commission: Place a Fraud Alert
- Social Security Administration: Identity Theft and Your Social Security Number
- Intuit Inc.: Identity Theft: What to Do if Someone Has Already Filed Taxes Using Your Social Security Number
- IRS: Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft