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Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness
Identity Theft And Your Social Security Number

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America. A dishonest person who has your Social Security number can use it to get other personal information about you. Identity thieves can use your number and your good credit to apply for more credit in your name. Then, they use the credit cards and do not pay the bills. You may not find out that someone is using your number until you are turned down for credit or you begin to get calls from unknown creditors demanding payment for items you never bought. Someone illegally using your Social Security number and assuming your identity can cause a lot of problems.

Your number is confidential:

The Social Security Administration protects your Social Security number and keeps your records confidential. We do not give your number to anyone, except when authorized by law. You should be careful about sharing your number, even when you are asked for it. You should ask why your number is needed, how it will be used and what will happen if you refuse. The answers to these questions can help you decide if you want to give out your Social Security number.

How might someone steal your number?

Identity thieves get your personal information by:

  • Stealing wallets, purses and your mail (bank and credit card statements, pre-approved credit offers, new checks and tax information);

  • Stealing personal information you provide to an unsecured site on the Internet, from business or personnel records at work and personal information in your home;

  • Rummaging through your trash, the trash of businesses and public trash dumps for personal data;

  • Posing by phone or E-mail as someone who legitimately needs information about you, such as employers or landlords; or

  • Buying personal information from “inside” sources. For example, an identity thief may pay a store employee for information about you that appears on an application for goods, services or credit.
Be careful with your Social Security card and number

Show your card to your employer when you start a job so your records are correct. Provide your Social Security number to your financial institution(s) for tax reporting purposes. Keep your card and any other document that shows your Social Security number on it in a safe place.

routinely carry your card or other documents that display your number.

What if an identity thief is creating credit problems for you?

If someone has misused your Social Security number or other personal information to create credit or other problems for you, Social Security cannot resolve these problems. But there are several things you should do.

You should contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/. Or, you can call 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338); TTY 1-866-653-4261. The FTC website is a one-stop national resource to learn about the crime of identity theft. It provides detailed information to help you deter, detect and defend against identity theft.

You also may want to contact the Internal Revenue Service. An identity thief might also use your Social Security number to file a tax return in order to receive a refund. If the thief files the tax return before you do, the IRS will believe you already filed and received your refund if eligible. If your Social Security number is stolen, another individual may use it to get a job. That person’s employer would report income earned to the IRS using your Social Security number, making it appear that you did not report all of your income on your tax return. If you think you may have tax issues because someone has stolen your identity, contact the IRS Identity Protection Unit or call 1-800-908-4490.

Also, you should file an online complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at http://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx. The IC3 gives victims of cyber crime a convenient and easy-to-use reporting mechanism that alerts authorities of suspected criminal or civil violations. IC3 sends every complaint to one or more law enforcement or regulatory agencies that have jurisdiction over the matter.

IC3’s mission is to receive, develop and refer criminal complaints regarding the rapidly expanding arena of cyber crime. For law enforcement and regulatory agencies at the federal, state, local and international level, IC3 provides a central referral mechanism for complaints involving Internet related crimes.

The IC3 reflects a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National White Collar Crime Center and the Bureau of Justice Assistance.

You also should monitor your credit report periodically. Free credit reports are available online at www.annualcreditreport.com.

How do I report identity theft, fraud or misuse of my Social Security number?

To report identity theft, fraud, or misuse of your Social Security number, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation's consumer protection agency, recommends that you take the following steps:

Step 1: Place a fraud alert on your credit file by contacting one of the three companies:

The company you contact is required to contact the other two, which will then place an alert on their versions of your report.

Step 2: Review your credit report for inquiries from companies you have not contacted; accounts you did not open; and debts on your accounts that you cannot explain.

Step 3: Close any accounts you know, or believe, have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.

Step 4: File a report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place.

Step 5: File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission online or by calling them at 1-877-438-4338 (TTY 1-866-653-4261).

From applying for disability, retirement, Medicare or spouses benefits, to obtaining a proof of income letter, changing an address or phone number, getting a replacement Medicare card or a Social Security Benefit Statement, Social Security’s website can save you and your clients a lot of time.


Information Provided by David Vinokurov, District Manager – Trenton, NJ, Social Security Administration

For More Information

Please Contact: Tarry Truitt, Communications and Project Manager, ttruitt@merceralliance.org or 609-844-1008.


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