What to Do when Your Social Security Number is Compromised

By Heidi Green , last updated July 19, 2011

In this confusing age of cyber criminals and wanton breaches of information, you need to be prepared and know what actions to take should your Social Security number is compromised. Although every one can take measures to protect themselves from identity theft, there are still occasions when even the best security is broken through, and valuable and sensitive information is exposed and/or stolen. Unfortunately, in this present technological age, your Social Security Number is often necessary in order to verify your identity. If the number itself is somehow taken from some nefarious hacker or online theft, that person can use your social security number, and even your identity, for illicit means. If taken to the logical extreme, you could even be implicated, unfairly of course, for crimes you did not commit because of the illegal connection. If you suspect that your social security number has been exposed, you need to take immediate action. Read on to learn some things you can do to limit the damage.

Know Safe Practices

You should know some commonly used practices to keep your social security number safe and out of the hands of criminals. Unless you need your physical social security card for some specific reason, you should never carry it with you. Make sure you keep it in a safe and secure place, such as a lockbox or safe somewhere in your house. In addition, you should know that the Social Security Administration undertakes several safeguard practices in order to ensure your security. For instance, whenever an employer reports wages earned, the Administration actually verifies the name and number before any earnings are posted. Whenever a name and social security number do not match up or remain unverified by an employer, the Administration is notified and can suspend the number and any accounts associated with it until an investigation is completed.

What You Should Do

If you suspect that, despite your best security efforts, your social security number has been exposed, there are several steps you can take that will help you minimize the potential damage. One of the very first things that you can do is contact the Social Security Administration to inform them of your concerns. The number to call in this case is 1-800-772-1213. The Administration will do the best they can to ensure that your records are in order and nothing has been tampered with or used illicitly. If it turns out that your social security number has been used illegally, you will need to take all measures necessary to stop the damage from continuing.

First, you will want to request a Social Security Statement to verify your reported earnings to see if they are accurate and reflect earnings you actually made. You can request this statement online via the Social Security website. Next, you will want to go ahead and notify the Federal Trade Commission, which has a standardized process set up to handle events like this. The number to call is 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338). You can also access help at the Federal Trade Commission website. The FTC actually has a centralized database where they keep all reported incidents of identity theft. By entering into the database, you are indicating that your social security number has been "flagged," should any illicit activity show up.

Next, you will want to file a complaint online with the Internet Crime Complaint Center. This online center was set up in order to create another database regarding cyber crime. They also post a lot of information on steps you can take if you are a victim of cyber crime. After you have done this, you will want to file a report with your local police office. You will receive a police report, which you can use as a physical proof of the crime's occurrence. Next, you will want to ensure that your credit rating remains unaffected by the potential identity theft. Each of the three major credit bureaus, Equifax, Trans Union and Experian, have fraud units whose job it is to handle and deal with these cases. You can find contact information for these units on the bureaus' websites.

In addition, you will probably want to contact all institutions that you maintain credit lines with. It is probably in your best interest to just go ahead and call up all of your banks and financial institutions, as well as any accounts you have set up with lending institutions. Tell them your situation, and also inform them that you have taken all of the steps necessary in order to report the incident and protect your identity.

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