What is SSN Theft?
A Social Security Number (SSN) is a unique government ID assigned to Americans at birth. Its original purpose was tracking individual earnings to determine social security benefits. Today, SSNs have become the most widely accepted and secure way to prove a person’s identity in the US.
SSN theft is when someone uses your social security number to commit fraud. Various social engineering attacks and data breaches beyond your control threaten your SSN. It is the key to the rest of your sensitive information, and criminals can use it to rob bank accounts, open credit cards, and obtain large loans.
These types of fraud can seriously damage your credit records and make it impossible to continue life as usual.
How Would My Social Security Number Get Stolen?
Scammers send emails, texts, or voicemails designed to steal your information. These messages contain malicious links that download malware or lead to a fake website that tricks you into inputting personal data.
People create countless accounts across various social media platforms and eCommerce services. Hackers break into company servers and steal customer information, including names, phone numbers, and social security numbers.
Most websites don’t ask for your social security number. The few that do are often considered more trustworthy; otherwise, you wouldn’t give them such vital information. However, even massive enterprises have been victims of data breaches in the past decade.
Data theft isn’t restricted to the web. Criminals can steal wallets, backpacks, and purses. If they’re lucky, they’ll steal something holding your social security card. Even your mail and trash can have confidential documents that include your SSN or other private information (tax papers, income statements, credit card applications, etc.)
Buying Out Employees
Many businesses collect social security numbers to run credit checks for larger purchases like smartphones, laptops, or vehicles. Criminals can buy your information from unscrupulous employees and automatically know your credit standing to boot.
How Are Stolen Social Security Numbers Used?
Your SSN is usually the final piece of the puzzle. After all, scammers can easily find their target’s full name, address, and contact information strewn across social media profiles and professional pages. This information allows them to open new credit cards, access healthcare perks, apply for mortgages, and file phony taxes.
Sometimes, opening a new account isn’t worth the effort, and thieves shake you down for whatever’s in your wallet. Unfortunately, your wallet now includes open financial accounts, including PayPal, Venmo, and investment applications like Acorns.
These services rely on SSNs in their identity verification processes. So, criminals that know yours can take control. The scammers will steal your accounts and quickly spend or transfer all existing funds leaving you with nothing.
Counterfeit SSN Cards
Knowing an SSN isn’t enough to prove identity at many institutions nowadays. Criminals can thank their progressively improving scams for that. However, if they back up their claims with a physical SSN card, it could be a different story.
These cards are simple. They include the owner’s full name, a signature, and the ten-digit number. Well-funded thieves can produce believable counterfeits with just a bit of information.
How Can I Protect Myself Against SSN Theft?
Keep Your SSN Private
It is important to keep your SSN private and only share it with trusted sources. The goal is to only share your SSN when you have a legitimate reason to do so. For example, you do not need to share your SSN when you take your pet to the vet, but many of them ask for it. Politely decline in situations like these.
Instead, share your SSN when it is necessary, and you trust that the company will keep your data private. Some examples of times when it is safe to share your SSN include:
- Getting a background check or applying for credit
- Reporting your taxes or filling out employment information
- Investing in identity protection services
- Performing a cash transaction over $10,000
- Applying for government benefits or aid
We strongly recommend keeping all your personal information private unless absolutely necessary. The rise of social media ushered in an era of oversharing, and it’s only made the job of cybercriminals all the easier.
Check for Breaches Regularly
Use our free scan to see if any information about you and your accounts seems out of place, incorrect, or suspicious. We recommend that you regularly scan your details to see if your information has been breached or exposed.
Store and Shred Documents
Always shred any document that includes your SSN before disposing of it. If you need to hold sensitive documents for an extended time, opt for a home safe or safe deposit box.
You should hold onto tax-related documents, proof of income, and property records for at least three years. It’s best to make digital copies of documents requiring permanent storage, like birth certificates or home deeds.
Windows and Mac come with built-in options for encrypting files behind a password. This feature makes it harder for hackers to access your files even if they break into your device. Encrypted cloud storage services like Google Drive, OneNote, iCloud, and Dropbox are also great options and allow for easy access.
Use Identity Theft Monitoring
An online identity monitoring service is the best way to keep an eye on your information and other personal data. You will receive notifications and alerts whenever a breach or exposure puts your personal information on scam sites. Prevent becoming a victim of financial scams by proactively monitoring your identity.
How IDStrong Works
We will continuously monitor your personal and financial information for any potential threats on the dark web and beyond
We will instantly notify you if we detect that your information is leaked, exposed, or breached
Our identity protection experts are available 24/7 to help you take the necessary actions to restore your identity
We monitor billions of records on the dark web and alert you if we detect that your information is exposed or traded
We monitor your credit profile for any suspicious inquiries, new loans, or any credit related changes
We scan data broker sites that list and sell your information and allow you to remove it with a click
$1M Identity Theft Insurance
If you fall victim to ID theft, we will provide you with up to $1 million in coverage with a no deductible for identity theft recovery expenses
Lost Wallet Assistance
If your wallet is lost or stolen, we will provide you with quick and reliable help in navigating the recovery process. We will walk you through the entire process every step of the way
If you experience identity theft, our fraud resolution team will deliver step-by-step support to investigate and restore your identity
Frequently Asked Questions About SSN Theft
How likely am I to become a victim of SSN theft?
The FBI reported 51,600 cases of SSN-related identity theft in 2021. This worrisome number worsens when considering all types of identity theft.
The Federal Trade Commission recorded 5.7 million cases of identity theft in 2023.
There are probably a similar number of unreported instances as well. IDStrong strongly recommends using our free scan to see what information on you is available. This is a vital tool in determining your overall risk of theft.
Can I protect against all SSN theft?
Unfortunately, there’s no surefire way to prevent SSN theft. There are many times when you’re required to use your social security number for credit checks which can be stolen through a data breach. The only option is to be as careful as possible and stay vigilant for any signs of it.
You can also initiate identity monitoring that notifies you when sensitive information appears online. This lets you assess the danger and preemptively set up safety measures like a credit freeze or fraud alert.
Does Identity Monitoring help identify SSN theft?
Identity monitoring indicates when you’re at risk of identity theft. Identity monitoring does not identify SSN theft. Instead, it acts as an indicator of when you’re at risk of it. This makes it a powerful tool for setting up preventative measures.
For example, the monitoring service can tell you that your email, name, and SSN have appeared on a scam site. This alert lets you respond before any damage is done and freeze your credit to prevent new accounts from opening in your name.
What to do if I am a victim of SSN theft?
If you’ve been the victim of SSN theft, your first step is to file a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC will give you a report allowing you to place a credit freeze with one of the three major credit bureaus.
A credit freeze prevents anyone from accessing your credit report and stops criminals from opening accounts in your name.
Lastly, check if there’s already been any damage. Review your financial and social security statements for suspicious charges or missing money.
What are the signs of SSN theft?
The most obvious signs are unauthorized transactions in your bank accounts and credit or debit cards. Look for unexpected letters, emails, or notifications from your financial institutions that you don’t recognize.
Changes in your credit score can also warn you about identity theft. If a scammer opens new lines of credit, your rating will surely fall.
Can SSN theft result in a monetary loss?
In 2021, social security number theft resulted in $281 million in losses. Since many identity thieves know how to fly under the radar, it could be years before they’re caught. This gives them time to empty bank accounts, destroy credit records, steal assets, and rack up insane amounts of debt in their victim’s name.
Is your SSN scan tool free to use?
Yes, IDStrong offers a free SSN scan of your leaked information. This tells you if your private data was lost in a data breach or could be in the process of being sold in third-party markets. After becoming a member, you can see where your SSN was breached, the site or company that breached it, when and how it happened, and more. We even provide you with possible steps to take to prevent future issues following this breach. You will also have access to other benefits, like automated alerts when new information on you pops up on the web.
How easy is it to detect SSN theft?
Usually, financial scams are difficult to detect because the victim is unaware that the fraud is occurring. The best way to ensure your information stays secure is to take a proactive approach, check all your accounts for suspicious activity, and use an identity monitoring service for regular financial alerts.
Monitoring your SSN allows you to be proactive and know if anyone is trying to take out lines of credit in your name. Fraudsters are all over the place. Partner with ID Strong to keep your information protected!