Identity Fraud: Should You Get a New Social Security Number?
Identity fraud involves more than someone stealing your social security number (SSN). Thieves can actually use your SSN for fraudulent purposes.
This includes getting loans and credit cards in your name, opening bank accounts in your name, and even committing crimes in your name.
Being a victim of ID fraud can impact different areas of your life, especially when thieves attack your credit.
Damaged credit makes it harder to get your own financing, you might have to pay a security deposit when setting up utility accounts, and a lower score could cause a spike in your insurance rates.
Clearing your name is possible, but it’s not an overnight fix. So depending on the extent of fraud, you might feel it’s easier to change your SSN and start over.
But while a new Social Security number after identity fraud stops misuse of your old number, it might not solve all of your problems.
Is It Possible to Get a New Social Security Number After Identity Fraud?
The short answer:
The Social Security Administration (SSA) does allow people to apply for a new SSN. But being a victim of ID theft or fraud doesn’t guarantee approval.
Requests for a new number are reviewed on a case-by-case basis, and the SSA has specific requirements for approval.
Understand that you can’t get a new number just because you’ve lost your Social Security card, or because it’s been stolen.
Getting a new SSN is very tough
Both incidents can result in someone using your SSN for fraudulent purposes.
But unless you can provide evidence of someone using your number, the SSA won’t approve your application.
Even if you can provide evidence, SSN changes are usually only granted when the fraud is ongoing, or when it causes significant hardship or legal problems.
In the absence of fraud, the SSA may also approve a number change when a person is attempting to escape an abuser or stalker. A new number makes it harder for the abuser to locate them.
Steps to getting a new SSN
Before getting approved for a new number, you must take steps to resolve the situation.
- Dispute inaccurate information on your credit report and perhaps placing a security freeze on your credit file—more on these options later.
- If fraud continues despite your best efforts to undo the damage, getting a new number might be the only way to put the nightmare behind you.
- At this point, you can visit a local Social Security office to apply for a new number.
- When applying for a number, you’ll need to provide proof of your identity, age, and U.S. citizenship or immigration status. You’ll also need to show proof of ongoing abuse of your SSN.
What Happens If You Change Your Social Security Number?
If you’re able to successfully change your SSN, you might be excited to put the fraud behind you.
But while there are advantages to changing your number, there’s also a few drawbacks. And the truth is, changing your number might not provide the fresh start you envisioned.
You’ll have to update creditors
The good news is that once you’ve changed your SSN, the old one is no longer available for misuse. You’re also no longer able to use the old number.
But the fact that your name is attached to an old SSN can be problematic from an administrative standpoint.
Keep in mind that creditors and many organizations have your old SSN on file.
Don’t expect the SSA to notify your creditors of the number change. It’s your responsibility to contact these companies and update your number. And unfortunately, this isn’t something you can complete in a few minutes.
It might take several hours or days to narrow down creditors and organizations who need your updated Social Security number. Companies and organizations you may need to contact include:
- mortgage provider
- personal banks and credit unions
- financial advisors
- insurance providers (auto, health, life, home, etc.)
- utility companies
- cell phone provider
- Department of Motor Vehicles
You’ll have to notify the IRS
Most importantly, you have to contact the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and notify them of your new number before filing a new tax return.
To do so, visit your local IRS office to request this change.
You’ll need to bring a copy of your new Social Security card and any official paperwork you receive from the Social Security Administration as additional proof, just in case.
Upon notification of the number change, the IRS will begin using your new Social Security number. The agency will also link your old tax records to this new number.
You’ll have to reestablish your credit
Changing your Social Security number can also cause problems with your credit history.
Your old Social Security number might have been associated with a lengthy credit history.
Your new Social Security number, on the other hand, isn’t associated with a credit file. You’ll essentially have a blank credit history, and you’ll have to reestablish credit under your new number.
If you had excellent credit before the fraud, you might have qualified for credit with no problem. And you probably qualified for the best interest rates.
With that said:
A blank credit history can be just as damaging as a bad credit history.
With no credit file attached to your new Social Security number, some lenders may hesitate approving your loan or credit card applications.
Since it can take years to reestablish credit, you might be better off keeping your old SSN and then working with the credit reporting agencies to clear your name. This is worth consideration when fraud doesn’t result in physical danger or legal problems.
Undoing the damage can be a slow process.
But at least you’re able to retain your good credit history as the agencies gradually remove fraudulent items from your report.
What If You Can’t Change Your Social Security Number?
If you can’t change your Social Security number, or if you decide it isn’t worth the hassle, here are a few tips to combat ID fraud:
1. Report the fraud
Report the theft to local law enforcement immediately.
You’ll receive a copy of the police report, which credit reporting agencies may ask for when disputing fraudulent activity.
File an online identity theft affidavit with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC will provide additional information on how to proceed.
Some thieves will even fill out a fraudulent change-of-address with the post office.
If you believe you’re a victim of mail fraud, report possible fraud to the Postal Inspection Service.
2. Request a credit freeze
A credit freeze prevents someone from opening new accounts in your name by stopping creditors from accessing your file.
If creditors can’t view your credit report, they’re not likely to approve a credit application in your name.
Credit freezes differ from a fraud alert. An alert notifies creditors of the possibility of identity theft. It doesn’t prevent someone from opening a new account. But with an alert in place, creditors will often take extra steps to verify an applicant’s identity.
You need to contact each of the major credit reporting agencies individually to request a freeze. These include TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. Depending on where you live, you may have to pay to freeze and unfreeze your file.
Keep in mind that a credit freeze doesn’t stop fraudulent activity on an existing account. It only prevents the thief from opening new accounts in your name. Therefore, you’ll still need to dispute accounts you didn’t authorize.
3. Dispute all incorrect information on credit reports
Order a copy of your credit report from all three credit reporting agencies.
You can get one free copy of each report annually from AnnualCreditReport.com. Or, contact the agencies individually to request a free report every 12 months.
Circle all incorrect or inaccurate items on your credit report.
Send a copy of this letter, along with copies of any supporting documentation directly to each credit agency by certified mail.
Supporting documentation can include reports filed with the police or the Federal Trade Commission.
Be specific in your dispute letter. Credit reporting agencies must investigate your claim. They usually respond within 30 days.
4. Contact reporting creditors
You could also contact creditors that provide erroneous information to the credit agencies.
Send a copy of a separate letter explaining why you’re disputing the information. Similarly, include copies of your police report or report filed with the FTC.
A creditor’s investigation may prove that you’re innocent. If so, they must stop reporting the fraudulent activity and delete the account from your credit file.
Identity fraud can be a time-consuming, hassle.
Depending on how long you’ve dealt with fraud, it might seem easier to apply for a new Social Security number. But this decision comes with a lot of red tape, so make sure you understand the pros and cons.
Whether you choose to get a new Social Security number or continue using your old one, take measures to avoid future theft.
Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet, shred sensitive information, don’t share your personal data, and sign up for identity theft monitoring.
Identity theft monitoring is an excellent, inexpensive way to prevent future attacks on your identity.
You’ll receive an alert anytime anyone attempts to open a new account in your name. It not only protects your credit, identity, and SSN, but also your peace of mind.