Avast Academy Privacy Identity Protection 5 Steps to Take if Your Social Security Number Is Stolen

5 Steps to Take if Your Social Security Number Is Stolen

If you think your Social Security number has been stolen, report it immediately to prevent financial fraud or identity theft. Read on to learn what to do if you lose your Social Security card and who to call to report it. Then, install a comprehensive cybersecurity suite like Avast One to help prevent identity theft and keep your sensitive information secure.

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Written by Danielle Bodnar
Published on May 19, 2023

What to do if your Social Security number or Social Security card is lost or stolen

Immediately report your social security card as stolen if you discover it’s missing. Contacting the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the three major credit bureaus is a great first step — doing so can help you prevent someone from stealing your identity while you contact other government agencies and replace your card.

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    Social Security numbers are more than just an ID number in the US. These numbers are connected to lifetime employment and financial records, health insurance, tax forms, and government benefits. Your Social Security number grants you access not only to government services but also credit card, loan, and passport applications.

    Social Security fraud and identity theft remain significant threats in the US. According to the FTC, identity theft accounted for about 22% of all fraud reports in 2022, with over a million reports filed.

    If you find that your Social Security number has been stolen, here are some ways to ensure the thief doesn’t get far with your information:

    1. Report the identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the police

    The first step is to report your stolen Social Security card to the FTC and the police. Go to identitytheft.gov and click Get Started. From there, enter the relevant information about what kind of identity theft took place and what your personal information was used for.

    If your Social Security number is stolen, report it immediately on identitytheft.gov.

    To file an identity theft report with the police, go to your local police station with all the information you have about the theft. Bring your own proof of identity with you, such as a driver’s license or passport. And request a copy of the report that you can use to place an extended fraud alert with the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion).

    Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to find and prosecute perpetrators of identity theft. But with both an FTC report and a police report you’ll be able to prevent thieves from opening new financial accounts or taking out credit lines in your name.

    2. Place a fraud alert or security freeze on your credit reports

    Placing a fraud alert or credit freeze on your credit and credit reports helps protect you and your finances by preventing anyone from opening a new credit account in your name — including yourself. This is a lifesaver if your Social Security card was stolen.

    Credit freezes and fraud alerts don’t mean you can’t do anything that might require credit checks, though. You’ll still be able to apply for jobs, rent an apartment, and apply for insurance while the freeze or alerts are in place — you may just need extra identity verification or a temporary lift on the freeze.

    To put a credit freeze on your accounts, contact all three credit bureaus individually: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Unlike a credit freeze, you only need to place a fraud alert with one bureau — fraud alert information is automatically shared among all three bureaus. Fraud alerts last for one year, but with an official identity theft report from the FTC or police, it can be extended to up to seven years.

    Credit freezes require contacting each of the three credit bureaus, but you can place a fraud alert with one bureau and the alert will be shared.For a credit freeze, contact all three credit bureaus separately. For a fraud alert, you only need to contact one credit bureau.

    3. Contact the place where your Social Security number may have been used for identity theft

    If your Social Security number has been compromised and used for fraudulent purposes, contact the organization or business where your Social Security was used for identity theft. To prove that you’re a victim of identity theft, you need to back up your claim with evidence, which is why it’s so important to get an official police report. You can also provide another proof of identity and disclose any fraud alerts or credit freezes you initiated.

    In some cases, you’ll be able to get your money back. But you can surely prevent any further purchases or new credit accounts in your name at that organization. If orders have been placed but not processed, cancel them as soon as possible.

    4. Monitor your credit reports to review your financial statements

    Once you’ve reported your Social Security number stolen and placed a credit freeze, regularly monitor your credit reports. Check that no unauthorized accounts were opened in your name, and that none of your existing accounts were modified without your permission.

    Normally, you are entitled to one free credit report per year, but with a fraud alert you can request credit reports more often. If you have an extended fraud alert, you can get a free credit report six times a year via Annual Credit Report. The individual credit bureaus also offer reports for a fee if you need to request more than six in a year.

    Monitor your credit report carefully via Annualcreditreport.com if your Social Security card is stolen.

    5. Call the Internal Revenue Service or the Social Security fraud hotline

    You can also call the Social Security fraud hotline at 800-269-0271 to report that your Social Security number has been compromised. Make sure to have the information you put on your identity theft report on hand in case any further information is requested about the case.

    If you know identity theft has been committed in your name, you also need to call the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) at 800-908-4490 to report it. This can help prevent identity theft — especially relating to tax fraud — from being committed in your name.

    How to protect your Social Security number

    Even after you’ve reported your Social Security number stolen and the issue is resolved, you’ll still need to keep a close eye on your personal information to make sure it’s safe. Here’s what you can do to prevent your Social Security number from being leaked or stolen:

    • Protect your digital accounts. Use a strong, unique password for each online account, and use a secure password manager to keep them organized.

    • Don’t share your SSN. Only use your Social Security number when absolutely necessary. The fewer people and organizations who know it, the better.

    • Avoid carrying your Social Security card. Keeping your Social Security card with you at all times (like in your wallet) increases the chances that you’ll lose it.

    • Keep your Social Security card secure. Lock your identity documents in a safe, lockbox, or other secure place. Memorize your SSN to use when necessary.

    • Use an identity theft protection service. Identity theft services regularly monitor for security breaches of Social Security numbers and other sensitive information. Avast BreachGuard provides powerful identity theft protection to help you know if your personal information has ever leaked.

    • Watch out for scams. Online scams can result in a stolen Social Security number if you’re not careful. If an email or text feels strange or too good to be true, ignore it.

    Use comprehensive security software to protect your identity

    With more of our lives moving into the digital space, it’s getting harder to protect our private data. Avast One is ironclad security and privacy protection that scans information leaked in data breaches to help you know if your passwords and other personal data have been compromised.

    Plus, Avast One offers a host of other features to help keep your online activity private, including a VPN to encrypt your connection and secure the data you send and receive online. Install Avast One today — completely free — to help secure your personal data and protect your identity.


    How can I check if someone is using my Social Security number?

    You can check whether someone has stolen your Social Security number by reviewing the earnings posted in your Social Security statement, which you can review online via My Social Security. Or, request free credit reports from each of the three credit bureaus annually to check your statements for suspicious activity.

    Do I need to contact the Social Security office if my identity is stolen?

    Yes, report any case of Social Security identification theft to the Social Security Administration via their fraud hotline: (800) 269-0271.You can also report the fraud online at oig.ssa.gov/report. Note that someone from Social Security won’t contact you by phone unless requested, so any calls claiming to be from Social Security are likely scams.

    Can you put an alert on your Social Security number?

    You can place a fraud alert on your Social Security number to prevent anyone from using your number to get benefits or open new accounts. To place a fraud alert on your Social Security number, contact any of the three credit bureaus and make sure to report that the fraud is related to your Social Security number.

    How do thieves profit from stolen Social Security cards?

    Someone can use a stolen Social Security card to open new lines of credit, gain access to financial accounts, and reroute Social Security checks or gain benefits. As a result, your bank accounts may be drained and your credit score ruined. Thieves can also sell your Social Security number on the dark web, where data brokers and hackers can use for malicious purposes.

    What are the dangers of losing my Social Security card?

    The biggest dangers of losing your Social Security card are potential financial and identity theft.

    While a Social Security number alone won’t necessarily allow thieves to gain access to your financial accounts, Social Security numbers are often bundled with other personal information, such as your name, date of birth, and address, which can lead to identity theft.

    Find out if your passwords have been exposed in a leak with Avast One

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    Find out if your passwords have been exposed in a leak with Avast One

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    Identity Protection
    Danielle Bodnar