It can happen in many ways.
Identity thieves can get your social security number by stealing your wallet or purse, or by buying the number from someone who did. Thieves can rifle through your garbage for bank and credit statements or copy the information from unsecured websites. Sometimes they're so brazen they'll even attempt to get it over the phone by posing as a representative of your insurance company or bank.
Check your statement.
The Social Security Administration suggests you contact them immediately if you think someone is using your number for any reason, such as applying for credit or a job. You can review your Social Security Statement to check for suspicious activity, and also contact the SSA through the site.
If the theft is especially serious, you can apply for a new Social Security number. It's a fairly drastic step, so be sure to talk with someone at the SSA before you do.
If credit problems due to the theft are really affecting your life, visit IdentityTheft.gov to report your situation and get a recovery plan. Or call 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338).
Identity thieves may also try to use your Social Security number to get a tax refund. So it's a good idea to contact the IRS and report your situation. You can also call 1-800-908-4490.
Keeping your number safe.
If someone on the phone asks for your Social Security number, ask why, and be sure you know the reason it's needed. Ask what will happen if you refuse to provide it.
Also, don't carry your Social Security card with you. Keep it in a secure place.
Visit www.socialsecurity.gov for more suggestions.
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