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Social Security, Employment And Identity Theft

Feb 6, 2008
Identity thieves steal your personal information for many reasons. Among those are to obtain credit (money) using your credit information, but also medical benefits, Veteran's benefits and employment.

Why would anyone steal your identity just to get a job? For many reasons, for example some people are in the United States illegally and do not have a social security number. Some people can not pass background checks, or have a criminal background that would keep them from getting jobs. Whatever the reason, Social Security Numbers are hot merchandise, if yours can be gotten, it can be sold.

"Misuse of another individual's SSN is a violation of federal law and may lead to fines and/or imprisonment and disregarding the work authorization provisions printed on your Social Security card may be a violation of federal immigration law. Violations of applicable law regarding Social Security number fraud and misuse are serious crimes and will be prosecuted." According to the Social Security Administration, The crime is considered a felony under federal and state laws and may result in fines and imprisonment.

In order to determine if there has been any use of your SSN to obtain employment, it is important to review your W-2 each year to determine that your social security benefits are being accurately reported and that the correct SSN is being used. Next, review your Social Security Statement issued to you each year. Check your statement against your W-2 to determine if there are any discrepancies. One way of determining if your SSN has been used illegally will be by monitoring the information on you benefits statement; which may state that benefits have been accessed or that the amount paid in maybe greater than the number reported on your W-2. To obtain a copy of your Statement of Benefits you may call the SSA toll-free at 1-800-772-1213.

Are you responsible for the taxes on the wages resulting from someone being illegally employed? Probably not, and the taxes are paid directly through the employer. As a result that money is just sitting in an account held by the federal government.

What about Social Security Benefits? What happens to the money paid in through two people employed and using the same social security number? It is estimated that approximately 420 billion dollars in federal funds are sitting in "limbo." The government calls this the Earnings Suspense Fund. The money has been paid in, but there is no one to credit the funds or benefits to. This is because in many cases the user of your social security number is also using either their own name, or a fake name. The only people that benefit from this extra payment are the federal government as well as the imposter who is able to be employed. Each government agency (IRS and SSA) have a list of mis-matched numbers, that don't belong to the names that are using them, so what are they doing about it?

Illegal use of your SSN is very difficult to find out about, unless you happen to apply for a job at the same place, or if they are also using it for theft of your credit information.

If after reviewing your benefits and wages information you are suspicious, take the next steps. Request a credit report to see if credit has also been obtained using your identity. If so, it is time to move quickly in order to rectify the errors in your employment, social security and credit history.

If you determine that your social security number has been compromised, you must contact the Social Security Administration and report it. Reports are made to the Social Security Administration (SSA) Office of the Inspector General. You may file a complaint online at www.socialsecurity.gov/oig, call toll-free: 1-800-269-0271, fax: 410-597-0118, or write: SSA Fraud Hotline, P.O. Box 17768, Baltimore, MD 21235.

Can you get a new social security number if you suspect that your number has been used? Maybe, but not always. The SSA will not issue a new number in the following circumstances: it was lost or stolen and no proof of damage has occurred, you are trying to avoid detection of poor credit or a criminal record, or you are trying to avoid some form of legal responsibility. However it is up to you to prove to them that your number is being used illegally, that you are not attempting to avoid credit collection or any other actions possibly pending against you.

Be proactive and try to protect and repair the damage yourself. File a report with the Social Security Administration, Federal Trade Commission and the three major credit agencies. However, without the issuance of a new Social Security Number, you are still at risk so you may want to consider using all the credit protection available to you such as placing fraud alerts on your credit report, credit freezes and consistent monitoring of your credit report. To report Identity Theft you may contact the Federal Trade Commission via telephone 1-877-438-4338.

You may find it necessary to consult with an attorney to protect your current and future benefit rights. Know your rights and stand up for them. Credit lenders or collection agents may attempt to threaten you or force you to pay for outstand debts incurred by use of your information. Consult with law enforcement officials, an attorney, the State's Attorney General and consumer credit counseling organizations to determine what your rights and responsibilities are and you can assert them.
About the Author
Lisa Carey is a contributing author for Identity Theft Secrets: prevention and protection. You can get tips on Identity theft protection, software, and monitoring your credit as well as learn more about the secrets used by identity thieves at the Identity Theft Secrets blog
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