Identity theft is one of the top cyber crimes of the century. 9.9 million people were victims of identity theft in 2008 according to the Javelin 2009 Identity Fraud Report. Thieves are stealing credit cards, bank account numbers, and other personal information. As a matter of fact, the FTC states 66% of stolen information is used to apply for new credit cards. Perhaps the biggest loss of most victims has to do with social security identity theft. When a thief has a name and the corresponding social security number, he/she can apply for a loan, credit card, or just about anything else that will cost the victim time and money.
How was your Social Security Number Stolen?
A pickpocket can steal your wallet or a thief can break into your car and steal your purse. Also, your mail is a perfect target for an identity thief. A thief can steal pre-approved credit card offers, tax information, or account statements. And an experienced computer criminal can access your email, online accounts, and any visited website to steal personal information including your social security number. A thief can hack into your company personnel list or onto a bank website to access your social security number and commit social security identity theft. Finally, a felon can commit ID theft crimes over the phone or via email by impersonating a company you do business with.
Sharing your Social Security Information
There are few situations when it is OK to give someone your social security information. Your employer will need it to set up your personnel file correctly. Your bank or investment firm will need your social security number for tax reasons. Do not give your social security number to anyone else. If you are filling out an application and it asks for your social security number, ask if it is absolutely necessary or if it can be omitted. Find out why they need your social security number. Do not provide the number if it does not make sense to. This is a really easy way to prevent social security identity theft.
What if you are a Victim of Identity Fraud?
If you believe someone is using your social security number, immediately contact the FTC. The FTC will go over your history with you to see if someone else is using your social security number. Also, request a copy of your credit report from Equifax, Experian, or Trans Union and have a fraud alert placed on your credit file. Lastly, file a formal police report in case the thief is ever caught. The report will be used for prosecution.
Getting a New Social Security Number
If you are the victim of social security identity theft and despite your best efforts, someone continues to use your social security number; you can apply for a new social security number. To do so, you must provide proof of your age and U.S. citizenship. You also must prove you are an identity theft victim. Take note, because there are several drawbacks to changing your social security number. Your employer, the IRS, your bank, and several other agencies have your original social security number on file. In addition, a new number does not guarantee a new beginning, as your name, address, and other information are also used to access your credit report.
In addition, you cannot use the old number once the new number is issued. Therefore, you may find it difficult to obtain credit, as your old credit history might not follow you. Essentially, you are stuck with zero credit. Most times, creditors would like to see at least some credit activity on your report.