How Do I Know if Someone Is Using My Social Security Number?
If your Social Security number falls into the wrong hands, your sensitive personal information is vulnerable.
Contributing Writer at Tally
June 13, 2022
Social Security fraud is a big problem in the United States. The Social Security Administration reports that it made about $7.9 billion in improper payments during the 2019 fiscal year. This statistic doesn't account for other ways identity thieves use Social Security numbers (SSNs), such as applying for a loan in your name, filing for your tax refund or even misrepresenting themselves if arrested for criminal activity.
Experian reports that around 5% of the American population is affected by identity theft each year. If you think someone has stolen your Social Security information, it's important to act quickly. The sooner you can stop ID theft, the easier the damage repair.
In this article, we answer the question, "How do I know if someone is using my Social Security number?" We’ll discuss why it’s a big deal if your SSN is stolen and what to do if someone has. We’ll also highlight a few preventative measures you can take to reduce the likelihood of your sensitive information being stolen.
How do I know if someone is using my Social Security number?
To see if someone’s using your SSN, check your credit report. You can check it online through AnnualCreditReport.com, the only authorized website for free credit reports. Or you can call their phone number at 1-877-322-8228 to request your free copy.
Once you’ve obtained your credit report, review it to see if anything is out of the ordinary. Carefully confirm your accounts and open lines of credit to make sure all of the information is legitimate. If not, someone may be fraudulently using your information.
In addition, you may also want to view other financial information, like your Social Security Statement, bank statements and credit card statements. Your Social Security Statement will show whether someone has begun withdrawing against your Social Security account earnings, which is another tell-tale indicator that someone is using your SSN. By checking your bank statements and credit card statements, you can determine whether someone has conducted fraudulent transactions on your accounts.
Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing whether someone has your Social Security number until they use it. Some companies offer dark web monitoring, which tracks your information across areas of the internet typically reserved for criminal activities. Your information often ends up on the dark web if you are the victim of a data breach.
However, even if your information appears on a dark web scan, there's no way to be sure that someone has your specific SSN or that they are using it.
Should I be worried if someone has my Social Security number?
Yes, it’s cause for concern if someone has your Social Security number. With your SSN, an identity thief can:
Open credit cards in your name and ignore the bills, damaging your credit score
Drain funds from your bank account
Open new accounts
Apply for loans and new credit lines
Misrepresent you as a taxpayer, filing your tax return and receiving a refund
Receive medical care, affecting your future health insurance rates and eligibility or draining your Medicare funds
Open utility service agreements in your name
Say they are you when committing a crime, whether a speeding ticket or something violent
Create a false ID, like a Social Security card, using their name and your number
Submit a retirement application with the Social Security Administration (SSA)
The more information the identity thief has, the easier it is for them to commit the above crimes. For instance, if they have your name, address, date of birth and Social Security number, they can create a fake driver's license and Social Security card with your information. From there, they can begin opening accounts that will be reflected on your credit report.
Similarly, the longer an ID thief uses your information, the harder it is to undo the damage. According to Allstate, it can take anywhere from 100 to 200 hours over six months to reverse identity theft.
What do I do if someone is using my Social Security number?
If you believe you’re the victim of identity theft, you'll want to
Contact the lender or company where the fraudulent activity happened
Report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Social Security Administration (SSA) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Contact your local police department
Place a fraud alert and freeze on your credit file
Reversing identity theft may take time, but doing so can salvage your credit score. Let’s take a closer look at the steps to take if someone has your Social Security number.
1. Contact the company directly
If you notice that someone has your SSN, you need to report the identity theft. If you can tell from your credit report which lender or company was used to open the account, you'll want to contact them directly. Provide information like the account number to flag future activity as fraudulent and stop the identity thief’s future use of the account.
2. File an FTC report, report the incident to the SSA and alert the IRS
Even if you contact the affected companies as listed above, you’ll still probably want to contact a few government agencies to further document the ID theft. Consider filing a formal report with the FTC via IdentityTheft.gov. This government website will help you create a recovery plan. You can also contact the department directly at their 1-877-ID-THEFT hotline.
Also, alert the Social Security Administration that your unique SSN has been compromised. Depending on the severity of the theft, the SSA may assign you a new number. You can’t get a new Social Security number just because you’ve lost your card or are seeking to avoid debts.
Report the incident to the Internal Revenue Service so that the identity thief does not file for your tax refund.
3. Contact your local police department
As mentioned, criminals can commit crimes using your information. Filing a police report covers you in case of illegal activity by the identity thief. Make sure that law enforcement files a formal theft report and that you receive a copy.
4. Place a fraud alert and credit freeze on your file
A fraud alert indicates to the credit bureaus that your information has been stolen and that they should be aware of the likelihood of unusual activity in your name.
A credit freeze goes one step further, locking your credit accounts so that no one can open a new account. Note that if you legitimately open a new account, you'll need to give the lender a heads up that your credit file is frozen and that you need to unfreeze it before they can run a hard inquiry.
If you put a fraud alert on your credit file, you only need to contact one of the three major credit bureaus; if you’re placing a freeze on your file, you’ll need to do this with each of the three credit reporting agencies —Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
How can I protect my Social Security number from being used?
Here are four identity theft protection measures you can take to keep your SSN safe.
1. Freeze your credit
As mentioned, a credit freeze prevents everyone (yourself included) from opening a new account. Since you know the freeze is in place, all you need to do is lift it before applying for new credit.
2. Lock your SSN
The Social Security Administration also allows you to lock your SSN. That way, even if a scammer obtains your number, they won’t be able to open any new accounts in your name.
3. Sign up for credit monitoring
The credit bureaus and various financial institutions may offer free credit monitoring or identity protection, especially if you’ve previously been the victim of identity theft or a data breach. If not, you can purchase the service to monitor your credit reports for suspicious activity and alert you when a new account is opened using your information.
4. Organize your credit accounts
The better you manage your accounts, the easier it is to spot fraud in your credit report. Consider using a service like Tally† to help pay down your existing credit card debts and better manage your finances.
Stay vigilant to help protect your personal information
If your Social Security number and personal information fall into the wrong hands, it could take you months to undo the damage. Monitoring your credit helps prevent the likelihood of this happening. The sooner you catch fraudulent activity, the easier it can be to reverse.
However, if you find that someone is using your SSN, it's possible to remove the activity from your credit file. Filing reports with the proper authorities can help reverse the effects of someone stealing your personal information.
Diligence with your credit is a round-the-clock effort. The Tally app makes it easier for you to keep track of your credit card accounts and manage your monthly payments with a lower-interest line of credit.
†To get the benefits of a Tally line of credit, you must qualify for and accept a Tally line of credit. The APR (which is the same as your interest rate) will be between 7.90% and 29.99% per year and will be based on your credit history. The APR will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Annual fees range from $0 - $300.