Learning how your Social Security number was used in the past can alert you to accounts that may be compromised and prompt you to take steps to minimize the damage that results from having your identity stolen. According to the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft is the most common consumer complaint in the country. Monitoring activity related to your Social Security number on an ongoing basis is a necessity.
Look for Unfamiliar Accounts on Your Credit Report
To find out how your Social Security number has been used, order credit reports from the three largest credit-reporting bureaus: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you are entitled to one free report per year from each service. Take a close look at the entries on the reports for accounts that you don't recognize, but don't assume that every unknown name is fraudulent. For example, a department store credit card may be listed under the name of the financial institution that services the account. Generally speaking, when an SSN is stolen, accounts are opened quickly, so several unfamiliar accounts established over a short period could indicate identity theft.
Run a Social Security Number Trace
A Social Security trace tracks all the addresses and names that have been linked to your SSN for a period of seven to 10 years. These reports are commonly used by companies that provide background check services. Any unfamiliar addresses or names should be called to the attention of the credit-reporting service to determine whether unusual entries are the result of inaccurately transcribed information or the illicit use of your Social Security number.
Regular Checks of Your Credit Reports
Monitoring your credit reports on a regular basis provides early warnings of suspicious activity so you can take steps to deal with identity theft before extensive damage is inflicted on your financial accounts and credit scores. Credit Karma offers unlimited free TransUnion credit reports to its members. In addition to protecting against identity theft, regular reviews of credit reports can catch mistaken entries that may negatively affect your credit score.
Sign Up for Credit Monitoring
If you are already the victim of identity theft that included your Social Security number, your personal information may be used at some time in the future in attempts to open fraudulent accounts in your name. Signing up for credit monitoring provides alerts when credit card accounts are opened, new entries are listed and loans are established with your SSN. The key advantage with credit monitoring is that alerts are sent out immediately after new information is entered on your credit history, either by text or email.
According to the FTC, an identity theft victim is responsible for all losses related to the illicit use of a lost ATM or debit card if the missing card is not reported within 60 days of receiving a statement showing fraudulent transactions.
- CPFB: Ask CPFB
- Employment Screening Resources: Social Security Number Trace Information for Consumers
- Credit Karma: Now on Credit Karma: Full Credit Reports!
- Equifax: Why Is Credit Monitoring Important?
- Experian: Social Security Search
- FTC: Identity Theft and Data Security
- FTC: Lost or Stolen Credit, ATM, and Debit Cards