Social Security Identity Theft
January 13, 2016 | by Chris Stein, CFP®, Finance Instructor at Colorado State University
Identity Theft and Your Social Security Number

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In this day and age it is becoming more and more common to hear of instances of identity theft.  Identity theft can take a wide range of forms with varying degrees of consequences.  So what is a person to do if their Social Security number is stolen, or being used by someone else?  It turns out that it is possible to get a new SS number, but it is not easy.

A New Social Security Number

The Social Security Administration (SSA) will issue you a new number only under specific circumstances, including:

  1. More than one person has been assigned or is using the same number;
  2. You have religious or cultural objections to certain numbers or digits in your number;
  3. Sequential numbers have been assigned to members of the same family and are causing problems;
  4. There is a situation of abuse, harassment or life endangerment; or
  5. You are a victim of identity theft and CONTINUE to be disadvantaged by using your original number.

Consequences of a New Number

As you can see, this is a very short and specific list.  In the case of identity theft it is not enough to have your identity stolen, but you must be continuing to be negatively affected by the theft despite your efforts to mitigate the damage.  So in a one-time event of someone abusing your Social Security number you will most likely be unable to obtain a new one.  You should also realize the consequences of obtaining a new number, such as:

  1. The SSA does not destroy your old number. Your new number will be cross-listed with the original number;
  2. Banks, credit unions, State Governments, the IRS, and other institutions will still have records under your original number;
  3. Your new number will not have your old credit history attached so at times it may be difficult to obtain loans due to lack of credit history.

What You’ll Need

If you decide you qualify and want to request a new SS number, you should be prepared to:

  1. Apply in person at a Social Security office;
  2. Complete a full application;
  3. Provide a statement explaining the reason you qualify for a new number;
  4. Provide current, credible, third-party evidence proving the reasons for needing a new number; and
  5. Provide original documents establishing:
    1. U.S. citizenship;
    2. Age;
    3. Identity

Bottom line is that while it is possible to obtain a new Social Security number, the requirements and process are strict and the new number may not solve all the issues a person experiences in an identity theft situation.

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