Do Scammers Have Your Social Security Number?
Dewan Williams was just one of thousands of people using a Medicaid program to qualify for free government cell phones — until officials realized they had received over 3,000 applications from his home address [*].
When police entered Dewan’s house, they discovered over 150 cell phones — along with the stolen Social Security numbers (SSNs) of over 7,000 Americans.
Your SSN is one of your most important pieces of personal information. Social Security numbers are used to open bank accounts, prove your identity on loan applications, and apply for government benefits.
“Cybersecurity experts say it’s almost guaranteed that your SSN is available to hackers and scammers on the Dark Web.”
If you think someone has your Social Security number, you can do something about it.
In this guide, we’ll explain how to tell if someone is using your SSN, what to do if it’s been stolen, and how to protect yourself from identity theft and Social Security fraud.
How To Tell If Someone Is Using Your SSN
While some of the warning signs of identity theft are easy to spot, it’s not always easy to know if someone has accessed your SSN. It’s nearly impossible to personally monitor all of the places where your stolen SSN might show up — from bank and loan applications to fake tax returns.
Here are a few of the main ways you can tell if someone has access to your Social Security number:
- You gave up your SSN over the phone or in a phishing email or text. It’s essential that you keep your SSN secure. If you recently gave someone your SSN over the phone, email, or via text, there’s a good chance that it’s circulating on the Dark Web.
- Your identity theft protection service notifies you that someone is using your SSN. Aura monitors your SSN across millions of data points on the internet, Dark Web, and in public records. If anyone uses your SSN without your permission, you’ll receive an alert in near real-time so that you can shut them down.
- You were turned down for new credit, or your credit score drops dramatically. Changes to your credit score or standing can indicate that identity thieves have used your SSN to take out loans or damage your credit.
- Your personal information (including your SSN) was leaked in a recent data breach. Cybercriminals hack large companies and sell their customer information on the Dark Web. This billion-dollar cybercrime industry can put your identity at risk — without your knowledge. Check if your personal information has been leaked by using Aura’s free Dark Web scanner.
- You receive mail or notifications about new accounts. Fraudsters may use your SSN to open new bank accounts and rack up debts in your name. Receiving mail or notices about an account or credit card that you don’t recognize is a huge red flag.
- You receive strange calls from creditors or debt collection agencies. If scammers run up debts and don’t pay them down, you may find debt collectors knocking on your door.
- You receive proof of employment for a job you don’t recognize. Fraudsters sometimes use stolen Social Security numbers to get jobs or complete background checks that they wouldn’t otherwise pass.
- You’re denied unemployment benefits or receive information about benefits you didn’t apply for. Your SSN may also be used to apply for unemployment or other government benefits. Don’t ignore notices about these claims.
What To Do If Someone Has Your SSN: 10 Steps
- Freeze your credit
- Check your credit reports
- Report identity theft and fraud to the FTC
- File a police report
- Review your Social Security Statement
- Contact the IRS
- Flag all fraudulent use of your SSN
- Claim your “my Social Security” account
- Lock your SSN using Self Lock
- Sign up for Social Security monitoring
If you think someone has your SSN, there are steps that you can take to get your life and credit under control.
1. Freeze your credit with all three credit bureaus
Identity thieves are almost always financially motivated — and a stolen SSN gives them access to some of your most sensitive financial accounts.
If someone has your Social Security number, you should freeze your credit as soon as possible. Freezing your credit stops companies from extending you new credit — which means that scammers can’t open new accounts or take out loans in your name.
Credit freezes are free. However, you’ll need to contact each of the three major credit bureaus individually — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. You’ll need to unfreeze your credit in the future if you want to apply for any new line of credit such as a loan, credit card, or mortgage.
Here’s how to contact each of the three credit bureaus to freeze your credit:
📌 Did you know? You can also instantly lock and unlock your Experian credit file with a single click by using Aura’s mobile app.
2. Check your credit reports for signs of fraud
If you didn’t freeze your credit in time, scammers may have already used your SSN to open new accounts. Check your credit report for unrecognized accounts, hard inquiries you didn’t request, and incorrect information.
Here’s what to do:
- Download a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies at AnnualCreditReport.com. You are entitled to one free credit report each week until the end of 2023.
- Look through each of your reports to make sure you recognize every inquiry and account. If there are any you don’t recognize, make note of them as you’ll be disputing them in the next few steps.
- Consider signing up for Aura’s credit monitoring service. Aura monitors your credit report in near real-time and alerts you of any suspicious activity — such as new credit accounts, changes to your credit score, or loan requests. And because Aura connects directly with each of the major credit bureaus, you’ll receive alerts about changes to your credit file up to 4x faster with Aura than with competitors.
3. Report identity theft and fraud to the FTC
If you’ve discovered evidence of ID theft on your credit report, your first course of action will be to report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). An FTC identity theft affidavit is a critical step when disputing fraudulent accounts and getting reimbursed for debts that you didn’t take out.
Here’s what to do:
- Go to IdentityTheft.gov and fill out an identity theft affidavit. The FTC will provide you with a personalized recovery plan to help you navigate the next steps.
4. File a police report with local law enforcement
In some situations, you’ll also want to report identity theft to your local police department. A police report is necessary if you have any information about the identity thief that could lead to an arrest, or if someone used your SSN to commit a crime (i.e. criminal identity theft).
Many companies will also want to see a police report (along with your FTC report) before they’ll mark accounts as fraudulent.
Here’s what to do:
- Call your local police department’s non-emergency line and explain that you want to file a report for identity theft. They may ask you to come in with proof of the crime, a primary ID (such as your driver’s license or passport), and your FTC report.
- Provide your police report when contacting companies where your SSN and other personally identifiable information (PII) was used to commit fraud.
5. Review your Social Security Statement
Your Social Security Statement is the source for all information about your retirement benefits, disability benefits (if applicable), Medicare information, and your earnings records. You can request a copy of your Statement from the Social Security Administration (SSA) to review for incorrect information, missing (or extra) earnings, and benefit details.
Here’s what to do:
- Head to the SSA’s Statement request page and either sign in using your my Social Security account or create a new one.
- Review your Statement to make sure there are no inaccuracies. Report any inconsistencies directly to the SSA.
6. Contact the IRS and explain that you’re the victim of identity theft
Scammers can also use your SSN to file fraudulent taxes or steal your tax return. If you see any signs of tax identity theft, such as having your tax return rejected, contact the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) immediately.
Here’s what to do:
- Call the IRS at 1-800-908-4490 or reach them online to learn more about reporting tax fraud using your SSN.
- You may need to file a Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit to prove that you’ve been the victim of identity theft. This can be found and filled out online or printed and attached to your tax return.
- For more information, read through the IRS’ Identity Theft Victim assistance guide for taxpayers.
7. Reach out to any company where your SSN was fraudulently used
Unfortunately, anytime your SSN is stolen and used for fraudulent activity, it falls on you to reach out to any impacted company. Most large creditors have a fraud hotline that you can find on their website to talk directly to someone related to this issue.
Here’s what to do:
- Call the fraud department of any company where your SSN was fraudulently used.
- You’ll likely need to share both your FTC affidavit and police report with their team.
- Follow up and keep checking your credit reports until the records have been expunged.
8. Claim your “my Social Security” account
Your “my Social Security” account allows you to request a new Social Security card if you happen to lose yours, get personalized benefits estimates, apply for benefits, and more. If you haven’t already, create an account to claim your SSN and get notifications if it’s being used for something that you didn’t request.
Here’s what to do:
- Create an account on the my Social Security website.
- Regularly monitor your Statement and use this account to notify the SSA of any fraud.
📚 Related: Can You Change Your Social Security Number? →
9. Lock your SSN using the DHS’s Self Lock
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) allows citizens to freeze their own SSNs using their “myE-Verify” accounts.
A SSN freeze won’t stop criminals from using your number in all scenarios. Instead, it generally protects you from employment-related fraud as new employers can check to see whether you’re eligible to work in the United States. If your SSN is locked, scammers won’t be able to use it to gain illegal employment.
Here’s what to do:
- Create an account on the myE-Verify site.
- Lock your Social Security number whenever you’re not actively job hunting. Locks last for one year and can be renewed upon expiry.
- You’ll need to unlock your SSN whenever you apply for a new job or if an employer needs to confirm your authorization to work.
10. Consider signing up for Social Security monitoring
Lastly, signing up for a Social Security monitoring service can help put your mind at ease knowing that scammers aren’t using your SSN for illegal or fraudulent acts.
Aura monitors your SSN across millions of data points including internet sites, Dark Web forums, and public records. If Aura finds your SSN anywhere that it shouldn’t be, you’ll get an alert in near real-time so that you can shut down scammers before they do too much damage.
Aura also monitors your bank and investment accounts, as well as your credit at all three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) to protect your finances from fraudsters.
And if the worst should happen, you have access to 24/7 U.S.-based fraud resolution specialists and are covered for up to $1,000,000 in insurance protection for eligible losses due to identity theft. Learn more by trying Aura free for 14 days →
The Latest SSN Scams (and How To Avoid Them)
Scammers know the value of your SSN and have developed numerous methods to try and steal yours. Here are some of the latest SSN scams to look out for:
- Phone scams that request you to “verify” your identity using your SSN. Fraudsters impersonate government officials or bank employees and pressure you into sharing your SSN in order to “prove” who you are.
- Job scams in which fake employers ask for your SSN as part of the application process. Always do your research when applying for new jobs, and never give out your SSN as part of the initial application process. They may need it later for a background check, but this will be after you’ve had an interview and can thoroughly vet the company.
- Data breaches that leak your sensitive data. Keep an eye out for data breaches at companies that might have your sensitive information, such as financial institutions. It’s always a good idea to scan the Dark Web to see if your passwords or sensitive data have been leaked.
- Stolen mail or trash that contains your SSN. Shred any documents or mail that includes your sensitive information — address, phone number, bank account numbers, SSN, etc.
- Fake websites that steal your personal information. Never input any personal information on websites unless you’re 100% sure that it’s the correct (and legitimate) website. Aura’s safe browsing tools can warn you if you’re entering a fake website.
- Phishing emails and texts that mine your personal data. Learn the warning signs of a phishing attack — and make sure never to respond to unsolicited messages by disclosing any sensitive data, such as your SSN.
Knowing how to recognize the latest SSN scams is important — but it’s always better to take a proactive approach to protecting your personal information from scammers.
First, never carry your Social Security card with you. Instead, keep it in a secure place at home unless you need to bring it with you for a very specific application.
Next, never give out your SSN over the phone, in an email, or via text. If an application form asks for your SSN, leave it blank or ask if there’s another piece of identification that you can provide instead.
Finally, don’t be shy about asking companies how they’ll store and protect your personal data. Your SSN privacy is key to keeping your identity and your financial history safe and secure.
Can You Change Your SSN If Yours Is Compromised?
The short answer is: yes, you can change your SSN. But only in specific situations. These include:
- Ongoing financial fraud due to identity theft. If you’ve exhausted your options and are continually losing money to scammers, you may qualify for a new Social Security number.
- The threat of harm (i.e., from a stalker using your SSN to find your location). If your current SSN is putting you at risk of physical harm, this may warrant a new number.
- Religious or cultural objections to the sequence of numbers on your SSN.
- Duplicate SSN numbers. While rare, this can happen and is a valid reason for changing your number.
- Your name and SSN are extremely similar to someone else’s. For example, if you and a sibling have sequential SSNs, the government may allow you to change yours.
To apply for a new Social Security number altogether, you’ll need to find your local Social Security Administration (SSA) office and request an in-person appointment.
The Bottom Line: Act Fast To Protect Your SSN
Your Social Security card and number are private and need to be kept under lock and key. Never carry your card around with you, and remain vigilant anytime you’re asked about your Social Security number. Legitimate companies will typically only need the last four digits — if any at all.
If you’re worried that you’ve fallen victim to SSN or identity theft, act fast. Follow the above steps and take advantage of Aura’s comprehensive, top-rated identity theft protection services.