Every legal resident in the United States has his own unique personal identification number assigned to him by the Social Security Administration. This number helps identify him to the U.S. government for employment, tax and other purposes. Social Security numbers also identify credit reports and employment references. This number should be kept as confidential as possible, but since it is used for so many different things, sometimes it can fall into the wrong hands.
Notifying the Social Security Administration
If someone uses your Social Security Number when getting a job but does not pay taxes on the money earned, you could be held responsible for the taxes due. If you feel your Social Security Number is being used by someone else for employment purposes, contact your local Social Security office or call (800) 772-1213. An employee will be able to look over their records to tell you if it looks like someone else is using your number for employment.
If you feel someone has gotten loans or credit cards with your number, the Social Security Administration cannot help you. Contacting the Federal Trade Commission or the credit bureaus will be the next step.
If Your Number is Being Used
If your Social Security Number is stolen, it is possible for someone else to get a bank account and apply for and get loans with that number. Once a loan, credit card or other line of credit is issued to your Social Security Number, the payment histories start to be reported to your credit report. If payments are not made, this can ruin your credit. If you suspect someone is using your Social Security Number to obtain credit, contact the Federal Trade Commission online at www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft or by phone at (877) 438-4338.
Contacting the Credit Reporting Agencies
If you suspect that someone is using your Social Security Number other than you, contact all three of the major credit reporting agencies: TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. Experian's phone number is (888) 397-3742, Equifax is (888) 202-4025, and TransUnion's is (800) 888-4213. These agencies may also be contacted by going to their websites (see Resources). When contacting these agencies, tell them that you suspect identity theft and that you would like to find out what your options are. You are also entitled to receive a free credit report from each of these agencies once per year. To check its correctness, visit www.annualcreditreport.com.
Getting a New Social Security Number
It is possible but highly irregular to get a new Social Security Number. If you have exhausted all other avenues and are still having problems with your Social Security Number and have proof of your efforts, you can approach the Social Security Administration and request that a new number be issued to you. You will need to supply them with evidence that you are still being disadvantaged by the misuse of your Social Security Number. This is not usually a good resolution to the problem, however, because all of the previous records from your old number do not go away--those creditors will still contact you and anything that was good on your old credit report does not follow you to your new number.