Skewed Blog Survey Report
Five Years On

Social Security and Identity Theft

When my wallet was stolen a few years ago, I went through the usual rigamarole of replacing all the various cards we carry. Among the chores, I went to the local Social Security office, filled in a form, showed my driver’s license and received a replacement card in the mail a couple of weeks later.

In the past few years, identity theft has become the fastest-growing crime in the U.S. and to help stem the tide, the Social Security Administration has instituted new, more rigorous requirements for replacement cards.

During most of our lives, our Social Security cards sit in our wallets or home document storage folders unused. After 65, however, the need to show it turns up more frequently, thereby creating more opportunity for it to be misplaced or stolen, so it’s a good idea to be familiar with these new replacement card rules which also apply to the need for a new card due to name change.

In addition to filing Form SS-5 which is available for download online at the Social Security website, and at local Social Security offices, you must show documents proving citizenship and identity. Acceptable proof of identity includes an unexpired:

  • U.S. drivers license
  • State-issued non-driver identification card
  • U.S. passport

If none of these three documents is available, other choices include:

  • Employee ID card
  • School ID card
  • Health insurance card (not Medicare)
  • U.S. military ID card or
  • Adoption decree

Acceptable proof of citizenship includes:

  • U.S. birth certificate
  • U.S. consular report of birth
  • U.S. passport
  • Certificate of Naturalization or Certificate of Citizenship

All documents must be originals or copies certified by the agency that issued them. One document can serve as both citizenship and identity proof.

The Social Security Administration strongly advises NOT carrying your Social Security card in your wallet. Additionally, it is a good idea to guard your number as closely as a state secret because all an identity thief needs to monumentally screw up your life and cause untold grief setting it right again is your name and Social Security number.

The only entities that may legitimately require your Social Security number are government agencies such as the Social Security Administration, Medicare and the IRS; employers; banking and investment institutions; or others that are required by law to report transactions to the federal government. No one else needs or should be given your Social Security number, including credit card companies.

Amazingly, many retailers and service companies still require a Social Security number which they use in their computer records for customer identification. Don’t do it. In setting up accounts with local utilities after I moved to Portland, Maine, one asked for my Social Security number. When I refused, they insisted. Eventually, we worked out an alternative.

It is also a good idea to check that all three credit reporting companies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – are not including your Social Security number in their credit reports to lenders, employers and others who purchase it. You do not need to pay for this service; you are entitled to one free credit report per year from each company and they must remove your Social Security number upon request.

Remember too, when you are applying for employment, not to fill in the Social Security box on the application until after you have been hired.

Your Medicare card can also put you at risk because your Medicare number is nothing more than your Social Security number with a letter attached at the end. Identity thieves know this, so guard that card too. And if your state still uses Social Security numbers as driver’s license numbers, that card should be carefully protected.

A few years ago, I helped a friend straighten out her life when her identity had been stolen. It is a nightmare of paperwork, uncounted numbers of telephone calls, endless hours on hold, flurries of photocopies, mailings, forms and not a few tears involved to repair your credit because even with the proliferation of identity theft crimes, many companies still assume the fraud is yours. So better to take as many precautions as possible.

This has been a free service of Time Goes By. Blog reading ain’t just fun and games, you know.

Comments

Isn't it a sad situation these days! Our shredder is usually in overdrive. You made excellent points about protecting the Social Security number. It is so important.

THANK YOU!!!
You just told us to have the credit reporting companies remove our SSN from their reports that they send out. We did not know that one!
Yes! you're not just a pretty face!

good blog. You made a lot of valuable points. We had an unpleasant experience last year with someone who had gotten one of our credit card numbers. They charged several thousand dollars worth of jewelry in Italy. Fortunately it was not difficult to prove it was not us and turned out the number might have been gotten through computer bank fraud, not somewhere we had used the card; but it makes you want to have a limit on your cards as well as not use them in places you have questions regarding the establishment's reliability. In our case, the bank absorbed the loss which meant we all paid for those crooks' success.

Medicare should change your ID to something other than your SSN, because every doctor, hospital and pharmacy that Medicare recipients use has this number. So, I called the SSA and tried to get another number issued. They just blew me off as if I were some kind of nut because I was concerned about identity theft.

The SSA won't ever change this unless forced to do so by Congress because of the cost and effort involved. They screwed up by using our SSNs to begin with and now we're stuck with it.

I no longer use Paypal since they let my credit card number get out. Thank goodness I use American Express for everything on line. Their fraud tracking unit is awesome - I had a new card in the mail before I even knew it was a problem, and didn't even have to dispute any charges. They simply knew stuff not shipped to my address and without my authorization was fraudulent.

Another problem nowadays is having to have social security for infants - the numbers get out and are used without our awareness since these kids are obviously not working.

This is excellent info -- "an ounce of prevention ...." I'll bet we all know of at least one person, if not ourselves to whom identity theft, fraudulent charges have occurred. Certainly I do, in my family.
Thanks, Ronni.

Good info there Ronni. Thank you very much.

I'm going to count this latest blog entry as news. This means that I get my news from blogs. hee hee

Thanks Ronni for this reminder. What caught my eye was the advice about not putting your ss # on a job application until you've got the job. Yikes! I have lots of those (from years ago) floating around out there somewhere. Here's hoping those applications have been shredded or whatever by now! Dee

My state, Georgia, formerly used SS numbers as drivers license numbers but the legislature finally changed that.

I had not thought about the Medicare card being the same as SS number. How dumb is that?

Thanks for the public service, Ronni

Identity theft is something I dread.
You do a wonderful public service always for your audience. Why we luv ya, hon.

Just redid my blogroll so it is listed on a second page - don't think you're left off!!!
MotherPie's Blogroll and Blog Friends

Cheers

Good advice, Ronni! But refusing to fill in my SS number gives them yet another excuse not to hire me (which they probably won't anyway because of my age) & you know some self-important, young secretary will INSIST that unless I give them it, I won't interviewed. It isn't a nice world!

I used a credit freeze to safeguard my assets. Now im having my life back! here i wanna share with you a good resource on Putting a Credit Freeze On Your Credit Report to stop identity theft. Good day

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