There are a few things in life that you can’t change. Death and taxes are chief among these, at least according to the old saying you’ve probably heard a time or two. Then there are some other facets of everyday life that seem permanent but are, in fact, changeable if you have the desire and you file the proper paperwork – a name change, for example.
How about your Social Security number? This assigned-at-birth-government-identifier is used throughout one’s life for many important purposes. And that SSN can also lead to issues related to fraud and identity theft. There are a few instances where it is technically possible to get a new SSN, but the process for doing so is far from easy and is not guaranteed. Identity fraud is one such reason you might (repeat might) be able to obtain a new SSN, so let’s dissect the question and process a bit in this post for some clarification.
Why You Might Want to Change Your Social Security Number
Your Social Security number essentially serves as a way for the government and other agencies or businesses to keep tabs on certain finances, benefits, and other things directly related to the number. An SSN, in theory, distinguishes you as a unique individual and allows you to get a job, earn benefits for Medicare and Social Security down the road, and track taxes owed and paid. Just like any other personal identifying information, this number can also become an issue if someone gets ahold of an SSN that is not their own.
Fraudsters and other criminals can perpetrate various schemes and scams when they have access to your Social Security number. They can file fake income tax returns, apply for jobs using an assumed identity, and take out lines of credit under your name. This is standard identity fraud stuff, and it’s always alarming when someone starts to use what’s supposed to be a confidential number to their benefit and your detriment. When you realize that someone is using your SSN to commit fraud or essentially steal from you, initial reactions often include anger and panic. And then, you need to start addressing the issue to get your identity fraud situation under control, which can be far from easy to accomplish.
Therefore, many people afflicted by these, or similar circumstances often wonder why they just can’t change their SSN and start fresh, like when your credit card number is compromised, and you get a new credit card with a new number. Unfortunately, the process is nowhere near that simple if it is even an option.
Who Can Get a New Social Security Number?
You cannot get a new Social Security number simply because you want one or you have fallen victim to identity theft through a perpetrator’s use of the number. Serious cases of ongoing identity fraud are considered, but not guaranteed. The other instances in which you might be able to get a new SSN include being a victim of domestic violence, abuse, or harassment – but we’ll focus on instances of identity fraud for this post.
According to the Social Security Administration, “if you’ve done all you can to fix the problems resulting from misuse of your Social Security number, and someone is still using your number, we may assign you a new number.” It’s worth noting that “may” is included in that last bit. There does not seem to be precise parameters on how the SSA decides who can get a new number, even if the victim is experiencing serious and persistent fraud.
The agency does make very clear when you can’t get a new Social Security number, and this includes:
- If your Social Security card is lost or stolen, but there’s no evidence that someone is using your number.
- To avoid the consequences of filing for bankruptcy.
- If you intend to avoid the law or any legal responsibility.
Taking this brief and somewhat cryptic approach to obtaining a new SSN to heart, it’s safe to assume that the average victim of identity theft will not be able to get a new number. But it is technically possible for victims of severe, long-term fraud directly related to use of a Social Security number with documented proof of the situation and approval by the SSA.
What To Do When You Think Someone is Using Your SSN?
Before diving into more details here, it’s crucial to again stress how critical it is to safeguard all your personal information, including your SSN. Be careful who you disclose this number to, and don’t carry your SSN card or documents that include it around with you in everyday activities. And it’s always a good idea to have identity theft fallout and restoration services in place ahead of time to help you better navigate through the details of this type of fraud or any other.
There are a few suggested steps to take if you think an identity thief is using your Social Security number and that the problem is potentially large enough to justify applying for a new one. The SSA recommends visiting identitytheft.gov to guide you through the recovery process. Contacting the IRS is another recommended idea if a scammer has used your SSN to file a fake income tax return. Identity theft information from the IRS and other resources can be found here. The SSA also suggests filing a complaint with the Crime Complaint Center (also known as the IC3). All of these recommended steps are with different agencies but following the action items laid out by the SSA is your best bet at possibly obtaining a new Social Security number.
Applying for a New SSN
If you do decide to apply for a new SSN because of fraud or any other issue, you need to be able to provide proof of your identity, age, and citizenship. You’ll also need documented evidence of the continued problems you are experiencing, which could include financial losses and the complaints or correspondence filed and discussed with the agencies mentioned above. And again, the SSA doesn’t explicitly list what type of evidence is needed, which suggests that each application is approached on a case-by-case basis.
Even if you are approved for a new SSN, it’s critical to realize that this one step alone might not fix all the issues you are experiencing. A new number doesn’t create a fresh start when your name and other personal information is tied to banks, government records, and credit lines. So while fraud and identity theft are certainly problems no one wants to experience, you can’t wipe the plate clean just by getting, or attempting to get, a new Social Security number.
LibertyID provides expert, full service, fully managed identity theft restoration to individuals, couples, extended families* and businesses. LibertyID has a 100% success rate in resolving all forms of identity fraud on behalf of our subscribers.
*LibertyID defines an extended family as: you, your spouse/partner, your parents and parents-in-law, and your children under the age of 25.