What happens when your social security number is stolen and used to obtain employment? Can you get a new one? What happens to the money paid into the Social Security Administration? And why doesn’t the government report to you duplicate payments? Read more to learn about social security and identity theft.
According to the Social Security Administration, “Misuse of another individual’s SSN is a violation of federal law and may lead to fines and/or imprisonment and disregarding the work authorization provisions printed on your Social Security card may be a violation of federal immigration law. Violations of applicable law regarding Social Security number fraud and misuse are serious crimes and will be prosecuted.” The crime is considered a felony under federal and state laws and may result in fines and imprisonment.
It is a felony and you may go to jail if you use someone else’s social security number to get a job, obtain benefits or apply for credit… But what happens if identity theft is not discovered? What happens to the benefits paid into your social security account by another individual? How can you find out if your SSN is being used illegally?
If someone is using your SSN for employment, both of you are paying into the same system; however, it is not as easy for them to access the money, especially benefits. To determine if there has been any use of your SSN to obtain a job, it is important to review your W-2 each year to determine that your social security benefits are being accurately reported and that the correct SSN is being used. Next, review your Social Security Statement issued to you each year. Check your statement against your W-2 to determine if there are any discrepancies. One way of determining if your SSN has been used illegally will be by monitoring the information on you benefits statement; which may state that benefits have been accessed or that the amount paid in maybe greater than the number reported on your W-2. To obtain a copy of your Statement of Benefits you may call the SSA toll-free at 1-800-772-1213.
What happens to the money paid in for taxes or benefits by two people for the same “account number?” Apparently the same person paid the money twice, but in many cases, the benefits will only be accessed by one person. It is estimated that approximately 420 billion dollars in federal funds are sitting in “limbo.” The government calls this the Earnings Suspense Fund. The money has been paid in, but there is no one to credit it to as in many cases, the misused SSN is matched with a false name and address. Who benefits? The federal government, does and the imposter who was able to be employed using your number.
It is very difficult to determine if someone is using your SSN unlawfully, if they are not using your name also to apply for jobs or credit. The government does not assist or notify you of work history or claims made under your social security number, and only if you are “lucky”, will you receive a notification from the IRS that a tax return with the same SSN has been filed.
If you have a suspicion that your SSN has been used to access benefits or to obtain a job your next step is to request a credit report to see if credit has also been obtained using your identity. If your identity has been stolen, then you begin the process of putting your credit and identity back together. If your SSN has been stolen for apparently the only purpose of obtaining employment you must contact the Social Security Administration and report it. Reports are made to the Social Security Administration (SSA) Office of the Inspector General. You may file a complaint online at www.socialsecurity.gov/oig, call toll-free: 1-800-269-0271, fax: 410-597-0118, or write: SSA Fraud Hotline, P.O. Box 17768, Baltimore, MD 21235.
What steps does the SSA take when you report? They MAY issue you a new social security number. But not always. They will not issue a new number in the following circumstances: it was lost or stolen and no proof of damage has occurred, you are trying to avoid detection of poor credit or a criminal record, or you are trying to avoid some form of legal responsibility. The really frightening part of this process is that your SSN is out there somewhere and you can’t get a new one, because the administration thinks you may be trying to avoid paying the false debts incurred through identity theft.
The only way to protect yourself is to: file a report to both the SSA and the three major credit agencies regarding any misuse of your SSN that you find. Next, take very strong steps toward protecting your future credit record, especially in the event the SSA will not issue you a new social security number, in that case you are still at risk, and it is necessary at this point to be aggressive in protecting yourself. Specific methods of protection are needed such as fraud alerts, credit freezes and consistent monitoring of your credit report. To report Identity Theft you may contact the Federal Trade Commission via telephone 1-877-438-4338 or file an ID Theft Complaint Form online.
You may also want to contact an attorney, in an attempt to prevent complications when you do attempt to access your benefits or file your return. An attorney may help you prevent future problems as well as resolve many of the ones you are experiencing as a result of your social security number being used illegally for any purpose.
Know your rights and stand up for them. Although your SSN may have been used to obtain credit or employment there are specific items which legally you can not be held responsible for. Your credit rating should not be negatively affected permanently. Do not let credit lenders or collection agencies bully you into paying bills that are not your responsibility. An attorney, law enforcement officials, and consumer affairs organizations can assist you in determining your rights and how best to assert them.