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Identity Theft And Your Social Security Number

From SSA Publication No. 05-10064, February 2004 [View .pdf] (En Español)

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America. When a dishonest person has your Social Security number, the thief can use it to get other personal information about you. Most of the time identity thieves use your number and your good credit to apply for more credit in your name. Then, they use the credit cards and do not pay the bills. You do not find out that someone is using your number until you are turned down for credit, or you begin to get calls from unknown creditors demanding payment for items you never bought.

Someone illegally using your Social Security number and assuming your identity can cause a lot of problems.


Your number is confidential
Don’t make it easy for someone to steal your number
Be careful with your Social Security card and number to prevent theft
How can I report that someone is using my Social Security number?
What if I think someone is using my number and creating credit problems for me?
Getting a new Social Security number
Contacting Social Security

Your number is confidential

Your Social Security number and our records are confidential. We do not give your number to anyone, except when authorized by law. You should be careful about sharing your number with anyone who asks for it (even when you are provided with a benefit or service).

Don’t make it easy for someone to steal your number

Identity thieves get your personal information by:

  • Stealing wallets, purses and your mail (bank and credit card statements, pre-approved credit offers, telephone calling cards and tax information);

  • Stealing personal information you provide to an unsecured site on the Internet, from business or personnel records at work and personal information in your home;

  • Sorting through trash for personal data;

  • Posing as someone who legitimately needs information about you, such as employers or landlords; or

  • Buying personal information from “inside” sources. For example, an identity thief may pay a store employee for information about you that appears on an application for goods, services or credit.

Be careful with your Social Security card and number to prevent theft

Show your card to your employer when you start a job so your records are correct. Then, put it in a safe place. DO NOT carry your card with you.

How can I report that someone is using my Social Security number?

In general, identity theft complaints should be referred to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which is charged with handling most identity theft complaints. The FTC Identity Theft Data Clearinghouse is at 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338).

Their web site at enables the public to file an identity theft complaint online.

The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998 directed FTC to establish a centralized complaint and consumer education service for victims of identity theft.

FTC enters victim information into the FTC Clearinghouse, a centralized data base for identity theft complaints. The FTC shares complaints they receive from victims with other Federal, state, and local law enforcement officials worldwide. They may also share identity theft complaints with some private companies, such as credit bureaus, for the purpose of correcting identity theft related problems and preventing fraud.

The SSA's Office of the Inspector General Hotline will accept SSN misuse allegations that involve the following:

Buying and selling of counterfeit or legitimate SSN cards.

Misuse involving people with links to terrorist groups or activities.

Misuse of an SSN by someone else to obtain Social Security benefits.

What if I think someone is using my number and creating credit problems for me?

If someone used your Social Security number to get credit, Social Security cannot fix your credit record. To fix your credit record:

  • Call the creditors who approved the credit (follow up with a letter).

  • File a police report.

  • Contact the fraud department of the major credit bureaus. Ask:

    • To have a flag placed on your record, requiring creditors to contact you before approving additional credit using your name and number;

    • How long your account will be flagged and how you can extend the flag, if necessary; and

    • To have a statement added to your credit report—include your name, explain the problem and provide a telephone number where someone can call you.

Request a copy of your credit report from each major credit bureau and check to see if it contains any entries you do not know about. If you are denied credit, you may be entitled to a free copy of your report.

The major credit reporting agencies are:

Report fraud:
Order a credit report:
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241

Report fraud:
Order a credit report:
P.O. Box 1017
Allen, TX 75013-0949

Report fraud:
Order a credit report:
Fraud Victim Assistance Department
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834

Getting a new Social Security number

If you have done all you can to fix the problem and someone still is using your number, we may assign you a new number. We cannot guarantee that a new number will solve your problem.

You cannot get a new Social Security number if:

  • You filed for bankruptcy;

  • You intend to avoid the law or your legal responsibility; or

  • Your Social Security card is lost or stolen, but there is no evidence that someone is using your number.

Contacting Social Security

For more information, visit our website at or call toll-free 1-800-772-1213 (for the deaf or hard of hearing, call our TTY number, 1-800-325-0778). We can answer specific questions and provide information by automated phone service 24 hours a day.

We treat all calls confidentially. We also want to make sure you receive accurate and courteous service. That is why we have a second Social Security representative monitor some telephone calls.

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