Let’s face it: your Social Security number is probably out there somewhere. This federal identification number is used for so many purposes—from tax forms to credit apps to student information forms—that it exists in myriads of places. And while organizations that ask for personally identifying information, including your Social Security number (SSN), do have an obligation to keep it as secure as possible, mistakes and cyberattacks happen. Sometimes, the person who gives up your SSN to a scammer is you.
Find out what to do if you’re a victim of identity fraud, and learn about Social Security number fraud and how to avoid it in the future.
What Happens if You Accidentally Give Someone Your Social Security Number?
No matter how or why it happened, if you give your SSN to someone you suspect might be a scammer—or think that your SSN has been stolen for any other reason—take action quickly. You could become a victim of identity theft. First, order your free annual credit reports to ensure nothing is amiss right now with your accounts. If you find anything, consider working with professionals such as Lexington Law to address errors on your report.
Next, take actions to protect yourself against fraudulent activity or identity theft in the future. Consider putting a fraud alert on your credit files. This lasts for 90 days and lets potential creditors know to take extra steps to verify your identity when a credit app is processed. It means you’ll have to jump through additional hoops if you apply for credit yourself, but the peace of mind may be worth it.
You can also invest in other identity theft protection products. These range from monitoring services that alert you to any new activity to credit locks that make it impossible for anyone—including you—to open a new account in your name until the lock is lifted.
If you’re worried about someone having your Social Security number because you misplaced your card, then follow the correct channels for reporting the loss and requesting a new card. You’ll still need to follow the steps above, because SSNs don’t work like credit card numbers. The Social Security office doesn’t close your account and issue you a brand-new number if identity theft occurs. They simply send you a new card.
How Do I Check to See if Someone Is Using My Social Security Number?
Unfortunately, the only way to know if someone has your social security number is if they put it to use. Identity thieves might use your SSN to get medical care under your name, open accounts in your name, file for a tax refund or steal your government benefits. Checking your credit reports, monitoring your federal and state tax accounts and keeping an eye on all your other accounts is typically the best proactive defense. Once you believe you’re a victim of SSN theft, take action to report it and deal with it immediately.
Can My Social Security Number Be Suspended?
No, the Social Security office doesn’t suspend numbers. Calls that tell you your SSN number may be blocked or suspended for any reason are a scam. This is a common phone scam that involves a person asking you for personal information, including your SSN, so they can work with you to resolve the issue. In some cases, the person asks you to pay a fee to have your SSN reinstated.
The true result of these scams is that your identity is stolen and used for fraudulent purposes. In cases where you provide a credit card or banking account number to pay the fee, the scammers may clean out your account or run up charges on your card.
Does Social Security Ever Contact You By Phone?
The Social Security Administration confirms that in some special cases, it does contact people by phone in order to handle customer service matters. The representative may ask you to confirm some personal information so they know they can speak with you. However, the rep also provides a name and phone extension.
One of the best ways to ensure you are talking to someone with the SSA and not a scammer is simply to tell the individual you will hang up and call back. Ask for the person’s extension and call the SSA customer service phone line at 1-800-772-1213. Dial the extension, and if you get to the same person, the call is legitimate. If not, it could be a social security scam.
The SSA notes that it never demands an immediate payment from people on the phone, and it always provides an appeals process if a debt is believed to be owed. The SSA also doesn’t accept forms of payments such as gift cards or threaten people with deportation or arrest. These are signs that it might be a scam.
Better Safe than Sorry: An SSN Motto
Because SSNs are used for so many purposes, it’s typically better to play it safe. If you have any reason to believe your personal information has been breached or is being used fraudulently, consider signing up for services at Credit.com to get ahead of any issues or enjoy peace of mind. You’ll be able to keep an eye out for any suspicious activity.