Of all the data to which a hacker can gain access, your Social Security number is one of the most problematic. The havoc they can wreak upon your life with those nine digits in hand is limited only by the scope of the usurper’s imagination.
Sadly, security breaches in which this information is being compromised are becoming more and more frequent. Moreover, there is a definite possibility it can happen to you. For this reason, it’s useful to know what to do if your Social Security number is stolen.
Report the Theft as Soon as Possible
You kind of have to wonder what’s worse; the fact that Social Security numbers get stolen, or that it happens so often the Federal Trade Commission has had to establish a website at which you can report the occurrence.
Upon logging on to IdentityTheft.gov , you’ll be asked some questions about the nature of your situation. Upon providing that information, you’ll be guided through the processes to minimize the potential damage having your number compromised can cause.
It’s also useful to file a police report in your city. Odds are they won’t be equipped to investigate the crime. However, having a report on file will come in handy when you contact affected creditors to inform them of the breach.
Institute a Credit Freeze
Notify each of the big three credit reporting bureaus of your desire to have a freeze placed upon your credit reports. This will prevent anyone other than you authorizing creditors to review them and issue new lines of credit, credit cards and other types of loans. It will also prevent people from using your Social Security number to get apartments.
Once the freeze is in place you will have to request it be lifted whenever you want someone to view your report. Freezes can be activated and suspended online at each of the bureaus’ websites.
Requesting a fraud alert is another option if you don’t want to have to deal with freezing and unfreezing your report each time you need access to a credit report. However, alerts need to be renewed each year, while a freeze will remain in place until you lift it.
Review Your Credit Reports
There is a definite possibility your number may be used before you become aware of the theft. The best way to see if this has happened is to review each of your three credit reports. These are available for free at AnnualCreditReport.com. Assess each one for unfamiliar accounts or unauthorized activity and contact the affected entity if nefarious activity is reflected.
Contact Affected Creditors
Your next step will be to inform victimized creditors of the theft. Failure to follow through on this step could leave you liable for any charges the thieves make using your number.
If this goes too far and you find yourself on the hook for an extraordinary amount of money, one solution would be to avail yourself of some form of debt relief. While you won’t have to pay as much as you would otherwise, you’ll still have to pay.
Contact those creditors right away.
Knowing what to do if your Social Security number is stolen and following thorough is just the beginning. You should also keep a close eye on the situation on an ongoing basis. Reviewing your credit report on a quarterly basis is an effective means of doing so, particularly if you also have a fraud alert in place.