Here in the United States, your Social Security Number (SSN) is a very powerful piece of information. It’s basically your identity in the system and according to the government. Being super careful when it comes to your SSN is not a sign of paranoia, but is something that everyone should be concerned about.
Yes, every citizen has a SSN but that doesn’t mean that criminals are not on the lookout for another individual’s SSN. Remember, your SSN is the key to your identity as a US citizen, and if this information finds its way into the wrong hands, there can be serious implications for your finances, your legal status, and your life in general.
What Is Identity Theft?
Identity theft, or identity fraud (as it is also often called), occurs when someone uses another individual’s personal identifying information, like their SSN, name, or credit card number without their permission in order to commit fraud and other crimes.
The repercussions for both the victim and the criminal are serious. Even so, this is an ever-increasing problem in the United States and globally. In the United States, however, the numbers are more than twice the global average, making this an increasingly concerning phenomenon. In 2020, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received 4.8 million identity theft and fraud reports – this represented a 45 percent increase from the previous year. Identity theft, specifically, made up 1.4 million of those reports. Social security scams and identity theft need to be stopped, but we also need to learn to do our best in keeping ourselves from becoming victims in the meantime.
Your SSN and financial information can be stolen in a variety of ways. Hackers and scammers use various methods to get this information from you, ranging from spyware and malware on your devices that are connected to the internet, as well as mobile phone scams like vishing. However, one of the biggest concerns today is the fact that many large, big data organizations are being hacked, with data leaks causing serious issues for their reputation and trust. Facebook, for example, has notoriously experienced massive data leaks to the point that more than 530 million users’ personal information have been exposed.
So, with this crime being so prevalent and the personal information of so many being compromised and reaching the hands of hackers, how do you know if someone is using your SSN?
Your Banking Information Is Inaccurate
In almost all cases, others steal SSNs in order to steal your money. Financial gain is probably the most common motive for this sort of crime. Checking up on your banking information is, then, one of the best ways to check if a criminal is using your SSN.
Always check up on your bank statements when you receive them. Don’t take them for granted. Bank statements provide an accurate picture of how your money is being used, so make sure to check them for any inconsistencies. One of the first things that you might notice, if your SSN was stolen, is that there are payments that you don’t remember making. There might also be subscriptions made on your name and charged to your bank account if you’ve been a victim of identity theft. Test charges for small amounts are also an almost sure sign that your SSN is not just yours anymore. This means that someone else is, or has been, trying to get memberships or new accounts in your name.
Getting Notified by the IRS
If you’re getting messages from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and you know that you don’t have any tax issues, you’re likely a victim of SSN theft. For the most part, the IRS will not call you, let’s make this clear. Correspondence from the organization would mean that they’ve noticed suspicious transactions made with your SSN. In this case, they may be contacting you to alert you to the fact that your SSN is being used by someone else.
Calls from Credit Agencies
If a credit agency calls you or communicates with you – especially if the credit agency in question is one that you don’t remember signing up with – your SSN is probably being used by another person. This is usually one of the first things that victims of SSN theft notice – a credit line opened in your name without your knowledge.
Strange Employment Records
Criminals using the SSN of another person would usually do so for nefarious purposes, like stealing money. However, some people use the SSN of others in order to get through background checks since their own SSD may not be all that favorable, to put it lightly.
In these cases, your personal statement will reflect earnings from an employer that you are unaware of. Of course, you would not see a penny of this money since identity thieves don’t tend to do favors for their victims. In any case, to know if your SSN is or has been used by someone else to pass their employment background check, create an account on the official United States Social Security Administration website.
Changes in Your Email or Snail Mail
A change in your medium of correspondence will often let you know that something is amiss with your SSN. Hackers will be watching your email, for example, to check if anything valuable comes in so that they make use of your personal information.
These changes may be that you no longer receive your bank statements or invoices. If this were to happen, consider it a major sign that your SSN is stolen. Additionally, you may also stop receiving email notifications for purchases that you make – this could also include texts to your mobile phone. On the other hand, your emails or snail mail bank statements could also reveal payments that you didn’t make, but were made from your account anyway. Watch out for mail in your letterbox that are addressed to people you don’t know, too.