What to Do When Someone Is Using Your Social Security Number

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stolen social security number

When an identity thief has a victim's Social Security number, he or she has a passport to commit Social Security fraud, identity theft, and many other crimes. This is one of the many reasons why people should never carry their Social Security cards in their wallets or purses. From the time of issuance when we're children, Social Security cards should be stored in a safe location at home, away from credit cards, drivers' licenses, and other personal information.

If you suspect that a criminal has your Social Security number, the Social Security Administration can help point you in the right direction, but it can't fix your credit. You're the only one who can do that. To that end, here are some things to do if someone is using your Social Security number to commit identity theft and Social Security fraud:

1. Stay cool and focused.
While identity theft is stressful, you're the only person who can help with this problem, and you can't solve it in a week or a month. It will take time. Stay as calm and focused as possible, and methodically address the problem.

2. Contact the credit reporting agencies.
Contact TransUnion, Equifax, or Experian to place a fraud alert on your credit report. Each agency is required to alert the other two when you place an alert. The alert will prevent a thief from opening any new accounts in your name.

• Equifax: 1-800-525-6285; www.equifax.com
• TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; www.transunion.com
• Experian: 1-888-397-3742; www.experian.com

3. Get a copy of your credit report.
The law requires each credit agency to provide you with a free copy of your credit report when you place a fraud alert. Examine each report carefully, and look for accounts in your name that you did not open.

4. Contact each creditor.
Make a list of the creditors, and contact them by phone and again by mail. Write down the names of the people with whom you speak at each creditor and when. Also, keep a list of all correspondence with each creditor. Remember that you're building your own case and rebuilding your credibility and creditworthiness from scratch. Keeping accurate records is one of your best tools for recovering from identity theft.

5. Contact the Federal Trade Commission.
The FTC has an Identity Theft Hotline at 1-877-438-4338 and an online identity theft complaint form at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/.

6. Contact the Social Security Administration.
Fill out the SSA's online complaint form or call them at 1-800-269-0271 to report the activity.

If a thief has your Social Security number, it will take a while to recover from identity theftbut you should know that you're not alone in your struggle. Millions of people are victims of Social Security fraud every year, and there are resources out there to help you if you're willing to go out and get them.

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