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What Can Someone Do with Your Social Security Number?

It’s easier than ever for scammers to get your SSN. Learn what someone can do with your Social Security number (and how to keep it safe).

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      When fraudsters stole Tony’s wallet way back in 2003, he assumed it was the cash they wanted. But, the thieves were more interested in his Social Security card.

      For more than a decade and a half, scammers have used Tony’s information to commit identity fraud at least 17 times — and accumulated a tax bill of over $45,000 in his name [*].

      With your full or even partial SSN and other personal information easily found online, scammers can commit credit card fraud, open new accounts, and receive medical care in your name — as well as siphon away your Social Security benefits.

      In this guide, we'll explain what scammers can do with your SSN, and how you can keep yourself safe.

      What Can Someone Do With Your Social Security Number?

      1. Obtain a credit card or loan in your name
      2. Open a bank account in your name
      3. Empty your bank account
      4. Get a fraudulent driver’s license
      5. Receive medical care using your benefits
      6. Open a phone account
      7. Commit crimes that will be on your record
      8. Steal your benefits and Social Security checks
      9. Set up utilities using your identity
      10. File a fraudulent tax return

      Your SSN is the key that unlocks your identity, financial accounts, and more. Here’s what scammers can do if they have your SSN:

      1.  Obtain credit cards or loans in your name

      Fraudsters can use your stolen SSN to open new credit cards in your name — taking advantage of your credit score and leaving you to pick up the pieces once they max out your card. In 2023 alone, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received over 381,000 reports of fraudulent new credit card accounts [*].

      💯 Pro tip: Monitor your SSN for signs of fraud. Aura constantly monitors online and Dark Web databases to see if scammers are using your SSN for fraud (such as opening a new bank account or taking out a credit card). If it detects any suspicious activity, you’ll get an alert and can shut the scammers down. Learn more about how Aura keeps your identity secure

      2. Open a new bank account in your name

      Fraudsters only need your SSN, date of birth, and address to open new bank accounts and receive debit cards in your name. In rare instances, some banks will ask for your driver’s license as identification, which scammers can provide if they’ve stolen your wallet. These accounts can be used to launder money or apply for overdraft protection and rack up debts in your name.

      3. Empty your bank account

      Many banks will use your SSN as a primary identifier when you call for help or try to make changes to your account. With your account number and SSN (which can often be found together after data breaches), fraudsters can access your account, add themselves as a user, or transfer out your savings using digital wallets like Zelle and Cash App.

      📚 Related: Did You Get Scammed on Cash App? Here's What To Do

      4. Get a fraudulent driver’s license

      When scammers steal your SSN, they can use it to obtain a fraudulent driver’s license and pose as you. This scam (known as criminal identity theft) can be hard to trace. But some warning signs include warrants for arrests and traffic tickets issued in states you didn’t visit.

      Contact your state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) if you suspect an identity thief obtained a fraudulent driver’s license in your name.

      5. Receive medical care using your benefits

      An identity thief who has your name and SSN can use it as identification to receive medical care — and send the bill to your health insurance provider. Victims of medical identity theft pay an average of $13,500 to resolve issues related to the crime [*].

      Apart from tainting your medical records, medical identity theft could have deadly consequences — you may receive improper care (due to the fraudster’s medical history being mixed up with yours) or be denied services.

      📚 Related: How To Check If Someone Is Using Your SSN

      6. Open a phone account

      Scammers can open a new phone account under your name if they have your address, name, and SSN.  For example, a woman discovered that her SSN had been stolen after receiving a Verizon Wireless bill for an account she didn’t open [*].

      7. Commit crimes that will be on your record

      Someone who steals your SSN can use it to avoid criminal responsibility. For example, fraudsters could use your SSN and name to identify themselves when law enforcement arrests them for a crime. The scammer then walks away, and your name is tangled up in their criminal record — preventing you from getting jobs that require criminal background checks.

      8. Steal your benefits and Social Security checks

      Federal benefits such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are tied to your SSN. A scammer with your SSN can divert your existing benefits checks and apply for other benefits — leaving you without support while you spend months trying to prove your identity.

      📚 Related: How Scammers Claim Benefits in Your Name

      9. Set up utilities using your identity

      Utility companies use your SSN when performing a credit check for new accounts. But if scammers have your SSN, they can easily open or upgrade their own utility accounts — such as gas or water — under your name. You may not learn of utility fraud until you receive notices for unpaid bills.

      10. File a fraudulent tax return

      Tax identity theft happens when fraudsters use your stolen personal information, such as your SSN, to file a tax return and claim a fraudulent refund in your name.

      Unfortunately, you probably won’t realize you’ve become a victim until you’re unable to file your tax return. In the meantime, you can’t access your stolen tax refund — as it can take months to resolve the problem with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and prove you were a victim of identity theft.

      📚 Related: What To Do If Someone Has Your SSN

      How Can Social Security Identity Theft Occur?

      Social Security theft occurs when someone steals your SSN and uses it to commit fraud or identity theft. Unfortunately, getting your SSN has become easier than ever.

      For example, the recent AT&T data breach leaked personal data, including Social Security numbers, from over 73 million customers [*]. Leaked data almost always ends up on the Dark Web, where it can be purchased and traded by hackers and scammers.

      Here are a few of the main ways that scammers can steal your SSN:

      • Data breaches. Hackers target major companies that store your sensitive information, including SSNs. In recent years, major data breaches have occurred at Facebook, LinkedIn, Marriott, and Equifax.
      • Stolen Social Security cards. If scammers steal your wallet, purse, or bag, they can gain access to your Social Security card. Even worse, they could also steal your driver’s license and credit cards — giving them everything they need to steal your identity.
      • Phishing attacks. Fraudsters pose as employees from government organizations like Medicare or the IRS, or trusted companies like Apple over phishing emails, text messages, or phone calls to try and persuade you into sharing or “verifying” your SSN.  
      • Stolen mail. If you throw away old financial statements, medical bills, or tax returns, fraudsters may go through your trash to steal your identity. A better approach is to shred documents before throwing them away.

      Can someone steal your identity with the last four digits of your SSN?

      To seem less suspicious, many scammers will only ask for the last four digits of your Social Security Number. But can this put you at risk of identity theft and fraud? Unfortunately, yes.  

      Many banks, government agencies, and other financial institutions only ask for the last four digits to confirm your identity. With those four digits, plus a bit more of your personal information, scammers could open accounts, access your bank, or apply for benefits in your name.

      For context, your full SSN is made up of three parts [*]:

      • Area number (first three digits)
      • Group number (middle two digits)
      • Serial number (last four digits)

      The bottom line: Even just the last four digits of your SSN can put you at risk of identity theft and fraud. Always try to keep the digits of your SSN and Social Security card private and secure.

      How To Find Out If Your Social Security Number Is Stolen

      Social Security number identity theft can go undetected for years, leading to substantial financial losses, damaged credit scores, and unnecessary stress and anxiety.  

      Here are a few ways to discover if your SSN has been stolen:

      Check your “mySocial Security” account

      You can open a free mySocial Security account to fill out online applications and estimate benefits.

      Your online Social Security account is an easy way to check how your SSN has been used. And, as an added bonus, you’ll also receive notifications when someone attempts to open a duplicate account, log in to your account, or tries to receive benefits in your name.

      📚 Related: How To Replace a Child’s Social Security Card

      Monitor your financial accounts for suspicious activity

      Many scammers will try and use your SSN for financial gain. Credit monitoring tools can alert you in near real-time if someone tries to open new accounts in your name.

      For example, Aura constantly monitors your credit, bank, and investment accounts for signs of fraud — and alerts you 250x faster than the competition if any suspicious activity is found3.

      Check your tax accounts for irregularities

      Your IRS tax account allows you to check your balance, manage payments, and view tax records. Check in a few times a year (not just during tax season) to see the status of recently filed tax returns and ensure that you haven't fallen victim to a tax scam.

      Look out for strange mail or phone calls

      Many warning signs of Social Security theft come through the mail or even phone calls. Some suspicious activity to look out for includes:

      • A change-of-address notification from the post office. Criminals will change your address to reroute mail — such as replacement or new credit cards — to an address that they own or manage.
      • Statements and bills for accounts you didn't open. Any unrecognized account statement is a cause for worry. Contact the bank or credit card company’s fraud department immediately, and ask for details about the account.
      • An unknown employer verified your eligibility to work. This is a sign that someone is using your SSN to work. Contact Social Security immediately about the identity theft.
      • Letters or calls from creditors or unknown companies. Don’t ignore unrecognized bills in the mail. These could be signs that your SSN was stolen and used to open new accounts.

      Review your credit reports regularly

      Your credit report and credit history can contain obvious clues that your SSN (or financial information) is being used by a criminal. Look for transactions that you don’t recognize, accounts you didn’t open, or hard inquiries you didn’t request. Also check for sudden changes in your credit score that you can’t explain.

      You can get a free credit report from to check for suspicious activity on your credit file.

      🏆 Stay safe with the industry’s fastest fraud alerts. A 2022 Mystery Shopper Survey found that Aura alerted customers to fraud faster and more reliably than competing credit monitoring solutions3. Try Aura free for 14 days to protect your finances and identity.

      Was Your Social Security Number Stolen? Do This

      If you’ve discovered that your SSN was stolen, act quickly to mitigate the damage. Here are a few things you should do immediately:

      Review your Social Security earnings records

      On rare occasions, multiple people may accidentally use the same SSN when filing paperwork. (But, bad actors do it intentionally when trying to get a job or loan.) Review your earnings posted on your Social Security statement and contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) if you notice any inconsistencies.

      You can report fraud to the SSA by calling their toll-free line at 1-877-438-4338 or online at

      Contact impacted companies and organizations (IRS, Medicare, etc.)

      Contact each company where fraudsters used your SSN to create an account.

      For example, if a scammer used your SSN to open phone and bank accounts, contact both companies to close the accounts, and explain that you were the victim of identity theft.

      Contact the IRS if you notice that someone used your stolen Social Security number to file a tax return or receive a tax refund. You can report tax-related identity theft by responding to the IRS tax notice, completing Form 14039 Identity Theft Affidavit, or by calling 1-800-908-4490 for specialized assistance.

      If you are a victim of Medicare fraud, call 1-800-633-4227 or file a complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services - Office of the Inspector General.

      Additionally, if a fraudster used your Social Security number to create identification records with government agencies, inform the SSA, IRS, and your Secretary of State office that handles fraud identification.

      Report theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

      Report the theft to the FTC at You’ll receive a free recovery plan to help you deal with the consequences of SSN theft. An official FTC report is also required for disputing fraudulent accounts and filing a police report.

      You can report Social Security theft in the following instances:

      • Someone files a fraudulent tax return or receives a tax refund in your name.
      • Someone files for government benefits in your name.
      • Your Social Security number was exposed in a data breach.

      Request a credit freeze

      A credit freeze prevents anyone from accessing your credit file. This makes it much harder for scammers to apply for loans, take out credit cards, or open new accounts in your name. You can place a credit freeze on your file at any time — even if no fraud has occurred.

      To place a credit freeze, contact each of the three major credit reporting agencies — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion — and request a PIN for your account.

      Experian Security Freeze — P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013
      Equifax Information Services LLC — P.O. Box 105788, Atlanta, GA 30348-5788
      TransUnion LLC – P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19016

      Alternatively, you can request a fraud alert on your account. Rather than restrict access to your credit file, a fraud alert tells lenders that they should take extra steps to verify your identity before extending your credit (although not all companies will follow through).

      To place a fraud alert, you only have to notify one of the credit bureaus. By law, they’re required to notify the others of the alert.

      📚 Related: Fraud Alert vs. Credit Freeze — Which Protects You More?

      Lock your SSN

      While you can’t freeze your SSN, you can use Self Lock to lock your Social Security online through the E-Verify platform.

      When an employer tries to verify your identity by entering your locked SSN, it returns an E-Verify mismatch. You can unlock your SSN when a new employer needs to verify your identity as part of the job application process.

      File a police report

      If your SSN was stolen and used for identity theft, you should file a police report with your local police department. A police report isn’t a requirement. But you should still file one in specific cases — like if you know the person who stole your SSN or have information that could help lead to an arrest.

      A police report can also serve as additional documentation and increase your chances of receiving compensation for financial losses.

      You can also report the fraud to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). The IC3 will forward your complaint to the appropriate local, state, or federal law enforcement for possible investigation.

      💪 Don’t get stuck dealing with identity theft alone. Every Aura plan includes 24/7 access to a team of qualified Fraud Resolution specialists, along with $1,000,000 insurance to cover eligible losses — including time off work spent recovering from identity theft. Try Aura for free today.

      How to Prevent Social Security Theft

      1. Leave your Social Security card at home. It’s unsafe to carry your Social Security card around unless you need it for an application. Security experts advise that you memorize your SSN and store IDs in a password-protected digital wallet to prevent fraud.
      2. Shred documents. Discarded documents and mail attract identity thieves. Shred all documents containing your personal identifying information (PII) before throwing them away.
      3. Keep personal information safe. Never share your SSN with someone you don’t know — especially in phone calls, emails, or text messages. If a company requests your SSN, ask why they need it and how they’ll protect your information.
      4. Use multi-factor authentication (2FA). Cybercriminals can use software to hack passwords in minutes (or, they can obtain your passwords through a data breach). Two-factor authentication maximizes your account security and ensures that you’re the only one with access to your account. For added security, use an authenticator app (rather than SMS) for receiving your 2FA codes.
      5. Secure your children's SSNs. Social Security theft doesn’t just happen to adults. One in 50 children were victims of identity theft in 2021 [*]. Aura offers Family Identity Theft Protection that monitors your children’s SSNs and protects them from identity theft.
      6. Set software to update automatically. Cybercriminals exploit security flaws to plant malware on your devices that can spy on you and steal your SSN (and other PII). Software updates plug security leaks by removing known flaws and vulnerabilities. Make sure you set your devices to auto-update software and operating systems in order to stay as secure as possible.
      7. Update privacy setting. Scammers often scour publicly available data — such as what you post on your social media accounts — to find information they can use against you. Edit your privacy settings on social media and other online accounts to prevent companies from sharing or displaying your data.
      8. Learn how to recognize phishing. Scammers often use phishing attacks to get you to unknowingly give up your SSN. Learn how to recognize a phishing email and avoid social engineering tactics that scammers use to trick victims.
      9. Use a different form of ID. When a  company requests your SSN, ask why they need it and how they will handle it. Since most companies won’t cover losses if your SSN is compromised, stay safe by offering an alternative (such as your driver’s license).
      10. Sign up for SSN monitoring and identity theft protection. Aura monitors your most sensitive information 24/7, including your SSN, and sends you alerts in near real-time if it’s leaked or used somewhere it shouldn’t be. All Aura plans also include three-bureau credit monitoring, powerful digital security for all of your devices, spam call and text protection, 24/7 support, and up to $5 million insurance for your family. Try Aura for yourself, for free.

      Can You Change Your SSN If It’s Stolen?

      The SSA advises against (and won’t always approve) requests to change your Social Security number. However, there are exceptional circumstances in which you can get a new Social Security number.

      You may be assigned a new SSN if:

      • Your SSN was issued to someone else.
      • Your current SSN is being used by someone to stalk, harass, or endanger your life.
      • Your family members received sequential SSN numbers, which is causing confusion.
      • You’re a victim of identity theft and suffering ongoing harm — such as loan denial, refusal of medical care, and lower credit rating. You’ll need to first prove that you’ve exhausted other options to solve the problem.

      📚 Read more: Can You Change Your Social Security Number (Guide)

      Get Proactive Security Against Social Security Theft with Aura

      Scammers can do serious damage if they have your SSN. Rather than wait to see the warning signs of fraud, sign up for Aura’s identity theft protection with SSN monitoring. We’ll track how your SSN is being used, search for your sensitive information on the Dark Web, and alert you if anyone is targeting you or your family for identity theft.

      Plus, every Aura

      Keep your SSN safe from scammers. Try Aura free for 14 days.
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