The odds of someone using your Social Security number to conduct identity theft crimes are higher than you think. In 2015, a lead data scientist at Verizon estimated that up to 80% of Social Security numbers had already been stolen by cybercriminals.
While having your SSN and other personally identifiable information (PII) exposed or sold on underground forums on the dark web doesn’t immediately foretell a fraud case, a compromised SSN can become highly problematic when paired with identifiers. Here’s what fraudsters and criminals can do with your SSN:
- Get credit under your name, since almost every credit card application asks for your SSN
- Receive medical care or get a job pretending to be you
- File fraudulent tax returns ahead of you
- Use your SSN when caught by police
- Steal your benefits by filing for unemployment in your name
Illicit dark web marketplaces and forums ooze stolen and compromised PII, including SSNs sold to the highest bidders. The best way to find out if your SSN has been leaked online is to check if your data was part of a data breach. Additionally, you may have received a data notification letter from a breached company, which should specify what type of information was involved.
Six steps that can help protect your identity and finances if your SSN is exposed
If your info ends up on the dark web or is stolen during a social engineering attack, safeguarding your digital privacy and financial security should become a top priority. Start by:
- Placing a credit freeze on your financial accounts to prevent fraudsters from taking out credit cards or applying for loans in your name
- Check your financial accounts for unfamiliar charges or suspicious activity
- Create a ‘mySocialSecurity’ account on the Social Security Administration’s website to check if your SSN has been used to apply for social benefits in your name
- Check your free credit reports every four months
- Report any fraudulent activity to law enforcement, credit reporting agencies and the IRS to avoid any legal issues
Pro tip: Manually monitoring for data breaches and tracking any outgoings to mitigate any financial risks can be time consuming and exhausting.
Bitdefender Ultimate Security (US only) can help you steer clear of cyber threats and keep your personal data and identity safe, with features like:
- Complete real-time threat protection against worms, viruses, Trojans, ransomware, rootkits, spyware and other cyber threats
- Premium VPN and Password Manager
- Real-time fraud monitoring that helps you dodge scams
- SSN tracker that notifies you if an unknown address, alias, or name is associated with your SSN
- Identity monitoring that detects if your personal information is on the dark web, change in address request, attempts to take over accounts and court records that may show crimes falsely reported in your name
- Up to $2 million identity theft recovery plan and legal assistance with a dedicated US-based resolution specialist