Decorators depend on their wholesome reputation and good financial standing to run their business. Social security identity theft can destroy your reputation, credit score, lines of credit, decimate your customer base, and leave you with a massive financial burden.
With data breaches at an all-time high, it is almost a certainty that your Social Security Number and other personal information are out there on the internet. Your info may be sitting in a database waiting for the right Dark Web buyer, or some sleaze might already be planning a scam with your personal details.
What Are The Dangers Of A Stolen Social Security Number?
Your SSN is a government-issued identification for U.S. residents, and it opens the world of commerce in the U.S. That’s why SSNs are sold to undocumented workers, illegal immigrants, scammers, and people who hide their true identities.
When the thief has access to the SSN plus the full name and address of the SSN holder, he can buy and sell property and cars, obtain credit at suppliers or utilities, open bank accounts and get new credit cards, steal your savings, or commit health insurance fraud.
Even worse: If criminals use your name and SSN to commit crimes, the police will come looking for you while they make their escape.
People Sometimes Don’t Know That Their Ssn Has Been Compromised
Clever criminals know how to stay under the radar to extend their run with a stolen SSN. For some, it’s an art form to use several different stolen SSNs at the same time to finance smaller expenses on an ongoing basis. They may rack up small charges and even pay a few fraudulent bills to keep up appearances and avoid detection.
Many small business owners only realize that something is amiss when they suddenly cannot obtain credit to complete projects.
So, how do I find out if someone is using my social security number?
The Signs That Someone Has Stolen Your Identity
- Check your bank statements. Don’t just look for big transactions. Fraudsters often settle for smaller transactions or regular subscriptions. Look for “test charges” or recurring small transactions on your credit or debit card.
- Get a credit report and check if unauthorized or strange accounts have been opened in your name.
- Has your employer mentioned problems with your SSN while filing paperwork and taxes?
- If you receive a tax transcript that you did not request or find that more than one tax return has been filed, contact the IRS immediately. Some victims find that they owe additional tax or that collection actions have been instigated against them.
- Has an income change caused your state or federal benefits to be reduced or cancelled?
- Have you stopped receiving bills in the mail?
- Have you noticed new bills for unfamiliar products or services?
- Are you getting calls from creditors regarding outstanding bills or accounts that aren’t yours?
Report SSN Fraud
Take immediate action. Start by filing an identity theft report with your local police because, if all else fails, you may want to apply for a new Social Security number, which is impossible without a police report and comprehensive documentation. Next, report the theft to:
- The IRS to prevent fraudsters from filing false tax returns or collecting your tax refund.
- The Federal Trade Commission, where you will find a very useful recovery plan.
- The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) for distribution to federal, state, and local authorities.
Lodge a fraud alert notification with one of the credit reporting agencies (Experian, TransUnion, or Equifax). Each is obligated to alert the other 2 CRA’s as well as government institutions. You must also track down all fraudulent accounts and contact each of the lenders or companies to start cleaning up your credit profile. Double-check that the CRA’s also have a record of each of these accounts.
Your SSN Is For Life, And The Problems Won’t Go Away
While some stolen Social Security numbers are used for relatively benign activities like gaining employment or housing, with no immediate detrimental effect, even these “benign” actions may snowball into massive trouble for you years later.
If the criminals use your SSN to defraud banks, retailers, the IRS, and other government agencies, your troubles are much more immediate.
You may eventually need to apply for a new Social Security number, which is a massive undertaking. You will have to prove that the theft of your SSN has caused you serious hardship, such as a trashed credit record that cannot be cleaned up. You’ll need to prove that you have been denied home mortgages, loans, or creditor that you experience problems with law enforcement or the IRS.
However, the old number will remain valid, and you will have to keep monitoring it for future incidents. To make matters worse, a new Social Security Number has a completely blank credit history, and your business might suffer from a lack of access to funding.
What Can I Do To Protect My Identity?
Identity thieves don’t just go around jotting down people’s SSNs on the back of an envelope. The real problem occurs when someone collects sufficient personal information, including your SSN, to impersonate you.
According to the U.S. Government Publishing Office, “The aggregation of personal information, such as SSNs, in large corporate databases and the increased availability of information via the Internet may provide criminals the opportunities to commit social security identity theft”.
Clean Up Your Digital Profile
People-search sites expose your sensitive information online without your consent. While you can manually remove your information from each site, you’ll soon find that it is impossible to stay ahead of the pack.
The answer is an automated service that will remove your information as it appears and a tool to monitor the inevitable re-appearance of your information on the internet. OneRep has been around since 2015 and offers an advanced automated tool to delete your information from more than 100 people-search sites.
Take Preventative Action For The Good Of Your Business
Don’t get lulled into a false sense of security. Social security identity theft is one of the fastest-growing cybercrimes, and we don’t have sophisticated tools to spot and combat this dreadful wrongdoing. In this situation, prevention is far easier and better than trying to find a cure.