Avoiding Identity Theft: How to Report Social Security Fraud
The sooner you're able to report identity theft, like Social Security fraud, the easier it is to reverse the effects.
Contributing Writer at Tally
March 11, 2022
If you've ever been the victim of identity theft, you know how challenging it can be to reverse the effects; 47% of Americans were victims of some sort of identity theft in 2020.
Knowing how to report fraud and identity theft can ultimately help protect your assets. The sooner you're able to detect and report an issue, the easier it may be to mitigate the impact of the incident. One of the things you may specifically need to know is how to report Social Security fraud. In this article, we’ll explain how. We’ll also go over what identity theft is, what Social Security fraud is, and how to keep your information safe.
Identity theft — the basics
Identity theft is when someone steals your personal information — like your Social Security number (SSN), credit card number, driver’s license number, name, address or date of birth — and uses it to commit fraud.
Fraud can include things like opening credit card accounts, loans and lines of credit in your name. If a hacker has your SSN, they could commit benefits fraud or file a tax return in your name to collect your refund from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Identity theft could also include more serious things, like a physical crime. Arrest warrants could even be issued against you.
More and more, it seems as though identity theft is everywhere around us. It's important to remain both diligent and proactive in protecting yourself from identity theft.
If you are the victim of ID theft, the effects could be devastating. It can take up to 200 hours over six months to undo the effects. This includes time spent making phone calls to numerous agencies, including but not limited to:
Your local police department
The Social Security Administration (SSA)
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
Banks and credit card companies
The three major credit bureaus (i.e., Equifax, Experian and TransUnion)
Any businesses where the identity thief used your information
Investing time and resources into identity theft protection could be in your best interest. Further education and an understanding of the different types of identity theft and fraud can also help you know what to look out for. Let's take a closer look at one specific type: Social Security fraud.
Understanding Social Security fraud
According to the SSA, "Fraud involves obtaining something of value through willful misrepresentation. In the context of our programs, fraud exists when a person with intent to defraud makes, or causes to be made, a false statement or misrepresents, conceals or fails to disclose a material fact for use in determining rights under the Social Security Act."
The Social Security Act is what grants you Social Security rights, including things like Social Security benefits. Types of fraud can include:
Buying or selling Social Security cards
Filing a claim — for unemployment benefits, tax returns, Social Security benefits, or other types of benefits — using another person's SSN
Collecting Social Security funds on behalf of someone who’s deceased
Impersonating an employee of the SSA
Making false statements on claims submitted to the SSA
Misusing the benefits of a representative payee
Concealing information that affects benefit eligibility
If you discover that you are the victim of Social Security fraud, there are a few things you'll want to do to help protect your assets and prevent the identity thief from using your information in the future.
How to report Social Security fraud
Once you detect fraudulent activity, knowing how to report Social Security fraud can not only help undo the effects of the fraudulent activity, but it can also help protect your information in the future.
If you notice or feel that you are the victim of Social Security fraud, contact the SSA's Office of the Inspector General (OIG). You can contact the OIG's Social Security fraud hotline at 1-800-269-0271 or file a report online at: https://oig.ssa.gov/.
When you file the report, provide as much information as possible. If you have any contact information for scammers who contacted you directly and attempted to commit identity theft — like names, addresses or phone numbers — be sure to turn this over to the OIG.
As a disclaimer, know that the OIG can’t provide you with any information gathered as a result of their investigation. This is due to federal regulations that prevent law enforcement records from being shared.
Note that the steps listed above are specific only to the SSA. As outlined above, you may still need to make other phone calls to report identity theft to agencies like the IRS, depending on the type of theft that took place.
How to protect your Social Security information
Learning how to report Social Security fraud is beneficial if you've been the victim of identity theft, but the best way to protect yourself and your information is by being proactive. There are a few steps that you can take to keep your sensitive personal information safe.
First and foremost, you shouldn’t carry your Social Security card with you on a routine basis. If you need it for a one-off situation, that’s understandable. But it shouldn’t be kept in your wallet or purse; keep your Social Security card somewhere safe in your place of residence.
Additionally, be mindful of the latest scams that identity thieves are using. Identity thieves have gotten particularly creative over the last few years, using things like email phishing campaigns and malicious links to steal your info.
Lastly, you should sign up and create an account with the SSA. This can help you keep track of your personal records. If you monitor your records regularly, you can immediately identify any suspicious activity. You should also do the same with your credit reports from the three main credit bureaus.
There is no "right answer" as to how often you should check these reports. As a rule of thumb, consider checking them at least once per quarter to help keep your information safe. If possible — or if you know your information has been compromised through a data breach — you may want to consider checking these reports more often.
Proactive financial management can put you on the path to success
When it comes to financial management, being proactive can put you on the path to success. Regularly monitoring your credit reports, credit card statements and other personal data can help protect your sensitive information.
The sooner you're able to catch identity theft, the easier it is to reverse any damage that has been done. If you do happen to be the victim of identity theft, you need to know things like how to report Social Security fraud.
Of course, identity monitoring is just one component of financial management. There are others, like paying down credit card debt and working toward your savings goals. If you're looking for the latest financial management tips and tricks, be sure to sign up for Tally's† email newsletter. The newsletter is delivered straight to your inbox and can help you stay up to date with the latest financial information.
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