If your Social Security number (SSN) has been stolen, you’ll need to act quickly to reduce the damage fraudsters can commit. It’s important to report the theft to the proper authorities and secure your credit and personal information.
Here are steps you can take if your SSN and related information are compromised.
Report the identity theft to the FTC and police
Your first action should be to report the identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on their website, IdentityTheft.gov. You’ll get information on next steps to take, which may include completing forms and getting a recovery plan.
After reporting the theft to the FTC, file a police report with your local jurisdiction. Having a police report can serve as documentation in your identity recovery and resolution endeavors.
Request a credit freeze or fraud alert
A credit freeze restricts access to your credit report and helps prevent fraudsters from opening new accounts or applying for loans in your name. Freezing your credit will not affect your credit score, and you can unfreeze and refreeze your credit report at any time (you’ll need to do so with all three credit bureaus separately).
If you think your SSN may have been stolen but don’t have any evidence of fraud occurring, you could place a fraud alert on your credit report instead of a credit freeze. Rather than restricting access to your credit report, a fraud alert asks businesses checking your credit to verify your identity before offering credit in your name. It has no effect on your credit score.
Contact companies where your SSN has been used fraudulently
In the case that your information was used to create fraudulent accounts, you’ll want to contact each company involved. For example, if your SSN was used to create bank accounts or credit accounts in your name, reach out to each bank or issuer and explain that you’re a victim of identity theft. They can then close your accounts so the identity thief can’t use them any longer.
If someone used your information to create fraudulent identification records, you’ll need to contact all agencies involved, possibly including the IRS, Social Security Administration and your secretary of state’s office, which handles cases of fraudulent identification.
More ways to protect your SSN
Get in the habit of regularly checking your bank and credit card accounts online for suspicious activity. Here are additional ways you can protect your SSN:
- Don’t carry your Social Security card with you.
- Don’t share your SSN unless you’ve verified the recipient, such as a lender or insurance provider.
- Destroy and dispose of physical documents (aside from your Social Security card) that contain your SSN.
- Password protect digital documents containing your SSN.
- Request free copies of your credit reports each year at AnnualCreditReport.com.
Being diligent and protective of your personal information is the best way to protect yourself against having your Social Security information compromised.
To learn more about other types of fraud, see the following articles: