Identity Theft--What Do I Do Now?

Beyond the Numbers

Date: 
Thursday, June 21, 2012
Posted by: 
The Office of External Relations

We field questions every single day from the public about identity theft.

  • What should I do if someone has opened a credit account or a bank account in my name?
  • How do I file my tax return if someone else is using my Social Security number to work?
  • Can you put a fraud alert on my Social Security number?

First, we hope you are actively protecting your personal information.  But if your identity is stolen, what steps should you take to resolve the resulting issues?

When your Social Security number is compromised, it is natural to think the Social Security Administration will be a one-stop shop to resolve any and all identity, credit, and tax issues. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.  

SSA can only correct SSN-reporting problems on their own records.  You should regularly review the details of your Social Security Statement to make sure it is correct—and now you can do that online here.  It’s easy to sign up, and you can review your lifetime earnings according to Social Security’s records. If your records don’t match SSA’s—or if you think someone else has used your SSN to work—the Agency can work with you to resolve that.

SSA also has a lot of information available online related to identity theft.  For example, you can read about SSA’s policy on issuing a different SSN here, and you can find out how to block electronic access to your Social Security records here.  You can even download and print the form to request an earnings record correction, here.

We should take a moment here to explain that we cannot speak for SSA—we’re only giving general advice to get you started.  If you think your earnings statement is incorrect, or if you want to obtain a replacement Social Security card, please call (800) 772-1213 or visit your local Social Security office. SSA representatives can help you resolve any discrepancies on your record and are trained to respond to your questions.

So that’s how SSA can help you.  But we know identity theft causes a lot of other problems, too, so here are some tips about where to go next.

To resolve tax issues, contact the Internal Revenue Service.  You can read about ways the IRS can help you here.

To resolve credit problems, contact the institution that approved the credit, as well as the major credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Did you know that by law, you can receive one free copy of your credit report per year from each of these bureaus?  Go to www.annualcreditreport.com

You will have to work with each credit bureau, creditor, employer and government agency involved to remove incorrect information about you from their records. Privacy laws prevent many government agencies from sharing information about you with each other—which means there is no way to put a “fraud alert” on your SSN. 

If a monetary theft occurred, you may also want to file a police report with your local law enforcement agency.  And finally, the Federal Trade Commission is the national clearinghouse for identity theft allegations.  You can find a lot of information about identity theft and can file a complaint online at http://www.ftc.gov/idtheft/.  The FTC's Identity Theft Hotline number is: toll-free 1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338); TDD: 1-866-653-4261.

For more information, check out the OIG’s Identity Theft page. You are not alone—the FTC estimates 9 million people each year become victims of identity theft.  We hope you aren’t one of them, but if you are, this information should help.  Remember, don’t put any personal information in the comments section below, but feel free to discuss identity theft in general or give us feedback.