With each type of identity theft, it can be noted that the social security number is the common element. If an individual with the wrong intentions has your name and SSN, he or she can easily steal your identity. Social security identity theft occurs when someone uses your social security to obtain employment or avoid paying taxes. This can happen to anyone at any time. You may not even know you are a victim until, in the case of financial ID theft, you are refused credit or begin receiving creditor calls. In many social security number ID theft cases, people complained that they did not even know their social security number was being used by someone else until the IRS contacted them for not reporting income (earned by the ID thief) on their tax returns.
If you are concerned about all the social security identity theft happening in the USA, here are some points you may find of interest:
- Your Social Security Number is confidential
- How can someone steal my social security number?
- What to do if you think someone else might be using your SSN
Your Social Security Number is Confidential
Always keep in mind that your Social Security Number is yours alone. Nobody should have the right to use your number; it is your identity, and you may get in trouble if it falls into the wrong hand. The Social Security Administration is there to safeguard your personal information carefully. You should always think twice before giving out your SSN to anyone. When asked for your SSN, ask why it is needed, how it will be used, and what the consequences will be if you refuse to share your number. Once you get all your answers, you can determine if you are comfortable sharing your SSN.
How Can Someone Steal My Social Security Number?
At Legal Yogi, we understand that Identity thieves are extremely crafty. They can get your SSN by stealing your purse or wallet, or even the mail from your mailbox or trash. This usually happens in cases of pre-approved credit card offers, bank statements, credit card bills, new checks, and tax information such as W2 forms. Many fake websites resemble an authentic site to get your personal information when you fill out forms or subscribe to a service online. Identity thieves can easily steal your personnel records at work by breaking into your home for information, rummaging through your trash, posing as a legitimate person such as a landlord calling or emailing to ask for information.
What to do if You Think Someone Else Might Be Using Your SSN
If you suspect someone is using your SSN, you should contact the Social Security Administration office in your area immediately. They will revise your earnings to see if someone else has reported earnings under your SSN. You can even view your Social Security Earnings Statement to check for yourself. You can request for the form SSA-7005 to be sent to you by calling: 1-800-772-1213. If it is determined that someone else has been using your SSN, you must inform the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-IDTHEFT. They will provide you with the information you need about filing a social security theft report. You should also call the IRS Identity Protection Unit at 1-800-908-4490 and ask them to monitor your credit report periodically.
Social Security Theft
Social security theft occurs when someone gains access to your social security number and uses it for employment purposes or to access benefits. They can obtain the information through data breaches, rifling through the trash that contains the information, or any number of other ways including employment records. Those who are collecting social security checks or other benefits in check form can easily become victims. They are able to access the checks as they arrive through the mail—they could do it by stealing from a mailbox or in cahoots with the mail carrier. They will take the check to a place like Walmart and cash it with fake identification. These people have no qualms about targeting vulnerable people like seniors and the disabled. They see them as easy marks because they either don’t have bank accounts or choose not to take advantage of the safer direct deposit.
What Happens if Someone Steals Your Social Security Number
If a thief gets access to your social security number, he can use it for many different things that include:
- Getting a job
- Applying for benefits
- Applying for credit including a home mortgage or car
- Accessing your tax records and claiming your refund
- Getting a driver’s license or state identification (either can provide the proof needed to cash stolen checks)
Social Security Fraud
In December 2019 15 defendants were sentenced in the Northern District of Georgia for stealing more than 6,000 checks worth over $10 million from the mail and cashing them at Walmart and Kroger in several states. They included tax refunds, Veteran’s checks, and social security checks. Most were issued by the U.S. Treasury to senior citizens. According to court records, they used fake identifications to “prove” they were the addressee of the checks. They even used other social security numbers to cash checks. A 16th person was to be sentenced soon. All defendants received sentences from two to ten years in prison. (https://www.clarionledger.com/story/news/2019/01/04/stolen-checks-keep-benefits-safe-thieves-using-direct-deposit-bill-moak-column/2458709002/)
On July 22, 2021 a 61-year-old man from Slidell, Louisiana pled guilty to an indictment of social security fraud handed down by the grand jury on November 6, 2020. According to the indictment, the defendant applied for RSI program benefits in January 1993 and married on September 24, 2006. His wife passed away on November 3, 2012, but he never reported it. Between December 2012 and March 2019, he received about $75,838. Sentencing was set for November 4, 2021, and he could face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine with supervised release after at least three years. (https://oig.ssa.gov/news-releases/2021-08-03-newsroom-news-releases-slidell-man-pleads-guilty-social-security-fraud-more-75000/)
On September 15, 2021, a man and his wife from Albany, New York were arraigned and indicted because the wife lied about her work history in order to receive disability benefits to which she was not entitled.
They are accused of concealing the fact Denise Mitchell was employed for at least two years between June 2015 and June 2017. She is also accused of falsifying a form she filled out with the SSA concerning her work history from August 2012 until June 2017.
If they are convicted, they both face a maximum of five years in prison, a fine up to $250,000 and supervised release for a maximum of three years. (https://oig.ssa.gov/news-releases/2021-09-16-albany-husband-and-wife-charged-with-social-security-fraud/)
The need to report social security fraud essential as can be shown by the above cases. In the last two cases, both husband and wife were a party to the fraud, and it is possible other people they knew were aware as well but didn’t report it.