Your Social Security number is worth your weight in gold, but the possibilities for nefarious activity with your number are limited only by the imagination of a thief.
This is why it’s so important to keep a close eye on your credit history and never be duped into disclosing your Social Security number. Lest you doubt the possibility of mayhem — or its potential scope — here’s what thieves can do with your Social Security number.
Usurp Your Identity
Criminals have actually used Social Security numbers to steal tax refunds. In fact, it’s such a regular occurrence, there’s an official name for the practice — Stolen Identity Refund Fraud (SIRF). With your Social Security number (SSN), they can file an income tax return in your name. They can also reroute your Social Security check, as well as your unemployment and disability benefits.
Your SSN can also be used to trick the police into thinking they’ve arrested you. Criminals can provide your name and number in lieu of a driver’s license number to get out of a speeding ticket — which will then turn into a warrant for your arrest when “you” fail to appear.
In a medical emergency, your SSN could be supplied to a hospital to get care on credit, then when the bill comes due, you’ll find yourself in collections for something you didn’t even know happened. They could also max out your Medicare plan, rendering your benefits depleted when you need them.
Wreck Your Finances
The most common tactic employed when crooks gain access to your SSN, they can get mortgages, loans and credit cards in your name. They can also gain access to your existing checking, savings and investment accounts. Your number can be used to commit wire fraud, credit card fraud, bank fraud, computer fraud, mail fraud and even employment fraud.
They can max your credit out and drain your bank accounts, leaving you on the hook for huge sums of money. Left unaddressed, this could drive you into bankruptcy. Thankfully, you could avail yourself of some form of debt relief to get back on track, but it’s a lot easier to do all you can to keep your Social Security number as confidential as possible in the first place.
Open Utility Accounts
Yes, water, gas, electricity, cable and internet service accounts can be opened in your name by people who have access to your Social Security number. They can also use your
SSN to upgrade services, start it in new locations, as well as “sell” utility services to others. And yes, the first time you’d find out about it would be when your service gets disconnected because you hadn’t paid the bill they had sent to a different address.
Sell it Outright
There is absolutely a market for stolen Social Security numbers. Sold to others, it could be used in any of the above ways repeatedly for many different people until it’s burned out altogether. Unraveling this activity to restore your good name could take years.
You might even have to kill that number altogether and get a new one. However, this brings a new problem. Your credit history will be wiped out and you’ll have to rebuild it from scratch. Plus, you’ll still be responsible for untangling the web of deception woven by the criminals who hijacked your original number.
No question about it; what thieves can do with your Social Security number has the capability of demolishing your life.