A new service being offered by the Social Security Administration appears to be very valuable in detecting unauthorized use of a Social Security number. This new anti-identity theft weapon is an online account available from the SSA and called "my Social Security."
You sign on to the Social Security Administration's website (at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount/) and establish an account. Then sign onto the account at any time and generate a copy of your yearly earnings statement, as well as do other related things such as giving you instant access to your benefit verification letter, payment history, and earnings record. You can estimate your retirement, disability, and survivors benefits; as well as the estimated Social Security and Medicare taxes you've paid.
The SSA says you should use a "my Social Security" online account to:
- Get your benefit verification letter;
- Check your benefit and payment information and your earnings record;
- Change your address and phone number; and
- Start or change direct deposit of your benefit payment.
If your earnings statement shows earnings that are higher than what you actually earned, or if it shows an employer different than your actual employer, you might be a victim of identity theft. Your SSN might have been stolen and used by someone else as part of a "synthetic identity" (matching various portions of multiple people's information to create one new fake identity) to gain employment.
You might initially think this is not such a bad thing because it potentially boosts your retirement income sometime in the future. But the situation will lose its allure if you become liable for taxes owed on income you didn't earn and never saw. Other consequences include denial of unemployment or disability benefits — if the government thinks you're employed when you're not.
Another benefit of establishing a "my Social Security" account: the SSA will no longer mail out an annual earnings and benefits statements to you now that your information is only accessible online. A not very well kept secret is the number of these annual statements that go lost on their way to you. These annual statements are readily identifiable pieces of first class mail much prized by identity thieves.
These new "my Social Security" accounts can also be invaluable in determining if your child's SSN has been compromised. Establish an account for each of them and if it reveals that your two-year-old has been working in a far distant state for the past eight years, it's likely their SSN was compromised years before they were born.
As Joe Mason and I have written in the past, so-called employment documentation mills often make up Social Security numbers they sell as part of an identification package sold to undocumented workers seeking employment.