Tuesday, February 23, 2010 9:52 AM cstanton

What Can Someone Do With My Social Security Number?

Most people are pretty careful with their SSN because they know that if the wrong person gets it, all kinds of bad things can happen. What kind of bad things? Here is a list of 

1) CREDIT IDENTITY THEFT

The most common form of identity theft, since all that is required is a social security number and maybe some sitting and waiting for the postman, is credit identity theft. This is when a thief gets a hold of one's social security number and applies for credit cards and loans in one's name.

All it really takes for a person to open a credit card in another name is another person's social security information. With that they can fill out applications online, or if they're really committed they can dig through your mail for pre-approved credit offers and fill out the forms with a different address. Since the bill is going to a different address, it may take months before the calls from unpaid creditors come in and alert the person of the issue. Then the battle is with the collection agency, and they're not usually very lenient with things like that. The struggle can take a lot of time and may never even be resolved.

An easy way to find out if there are bogus credit accounts in your name is to get a credit report. I got a free credit report at freecreditreport.com, which is NOT free if you don't cancel within the trial period. Everything appeared to be normal at first, and the I saw a 4th credit card account with Chase which I had no recollection of opening. The account had my middle initial wrong, but I was surprised to find that the address was correct. The account balance was zero so I wasn't and am not very worried, as all I had to do was give Chase a call and cancel the account. I am lucky. I now use LifeLock, it costs money but it does a lot for identity theft protection and sends me my credit reports when they are updated.

2) EMPLOYMENT IDENTIY THEFT

Another really awful thing that someone can do with just your social security is obtain employment. This can cause huge issues with the IRS. Imagine if you worked hard all year and expected to get a return at tax time. Instead you got nothing, and were told that your return was kept in order to pay income taxes on a separate employment. That would be awful, right?

Illegal immigrants often have trouble finding employment without social security numbers, so sometimes identity theft comes in handy. Also, people that work as private contractors and do not have their income taxes taken out of their paychecks benefit by working under someone else's social security number.

The first few questions that springs to mind is "How is that even possible? Wouldn't the checks be in the person's name that matched the SSN? Isn't it required that you have an ID?" A lot of these manipulative thieves get their employers to cash the checks for them. The bank that issues the check will usually cash it without an ID too. If the thief is in possession of your wallet, then they very well may have your ID, in which case most tellers don't even care if it matches. Worse comes to worst for the thief and they have to pay a visit to a local sleazy liquor store that cashes checks for a fee.

3) MEDICAL IDENTITY THEFT

Medical identity theft is a growing crime as well. All that is required to access someone's health insurance is knowledge of their provider, their date of birth and their social security number. Knowledge of their provider can be found by looking through their mail, or with a little patience and a few calls to popular insurance providers like Aetna, AIG, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Humana, State Farm, etc. Some colleges provide health insurance plans through certain companies, FSU does Aetna so if I were to steal a college student's SSN I could probably get their health insurance too, in which case it would be possible to get prescriptions and treatments in their name. This can be one of the most costly forms of identity theft and one of the most difficult to detect. Lets be honest, who goes over their health insurance claims if they haven't been to the doctor?

What is the best way of preventing these things from happening to you? To have someone that is looking out for you of course!

LifeLock is a great way to protect yourself from identity theft. LifeLock takes several measures to make sure that its members' identities stay safe. LifeLock members are notified any time that their identity is used to apply for credit and other services. Members are notified whenever any change of address is requested for their info. Also, LifeLock helps to remove its members from pre-approved credit card lists so that the risk of having a pre-approved credit card application stolen is cut. On top of the preventative measures, if LifeLock somehow screws up and doesn't provide you with information that could have prevented an attack on your identity, they will pay up to 1 million dollars to cover your losses.

The new LifeLock Command Center is the upgraded form of service that they offer. With that, one can see whether or not their info is showing up with any payday loans, if sex offenders are fraudulently using their address, if any file sharing networks or websites are selling their information, and whether or not any court dates are associated with their names and dates of birth.

Keep your identity safe. Make sure that you don't have any valuable mail laying around and make sure that you keep your social security card somewhere safe in your house, not in your wallet.
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