Every day, millions of Americans’ stolen identities are used by identity thieves to commit crimes involving some form of identity fraud. The common denominator in most types of identity crimes is the theft and misuse of Social Security numbers by identity thieves. With a stolen Social Security number, an identity thief can easily commit crimes and financial fraud in your good name or create a different identity.
SSN Identity Theft
Statistically, every American’s Social Security number has been lost or stolen in just the last few years. The majority of these lost or stolen Social Security numbers are a result of corporate and government database security breaches. The most frequent forms of database security breaches are lost and stolen laptops and the successful hacking of computer databases. Often these databases contain sensitive personal information – including Social Security numbers.
As you can see at the top of our home page and on our Security Breach page, database security breaches are reported almost every day in the United States. These breaches routinely result in the loss or theft of thousands of Social Security numbers. Unfortunately, breaches involving millions of Social Security numbers have also occurred on a relatively frequent basis.
With a stolen Social Security number, an identity thief can either assume your identity by using your actual name and biographical information or use your Social Security number in combination with a different name and biographical information in order to create an entirely different identity. This latter form of identity theft involving a social security number combined with a different name is often referred to as synthetic identity theft.
Additionally, there is a growing body of evidence that stolen Social Security numbers are used by illegal immigrants to complete state and federal employment forms. Recent enforcement actions brought by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security against employers have resulted in thousands of arrests of illegal immigrants using stolen Social Security numbers.
Because almost every American has had their Social Security number lost or stolen as a result of a database security breach and because it is likely that security breaches will continue to put your Social Security number at risk, it is important to take steps to protect yourself and your family from identity theft.
While there is no single method or product (contrary to advertisements you see and hear on a daily basis) that will protect you completely from the misuse of your Social Security number and identity theft, there are methods and products that can help.
More than anything else, you need to personally monitor your financial accounts and records on a routine basis and be alert for unusual transactions or information that leads you to believe your Social Security number or your identity has been compromised. This is important even if you use commercial services to protect, monitor or insure your personal information.
For more information on how to combat all forms of identity theft – including Social Security number identity theft– please visit our ID Theft Prevention, Protection and Recovery categories.