Identity theft and fraud protection for your finances, personal info, and devices.
Is Your SSN Safe From Scammers?
In 2020, 49 million Americans experienced financial identity theft and lost upwards of $56 billion to scammers [*].
Identity thieves scour for your sensitive information. But there's one piece that can unlock your bank accounts, medical benefits, and credit: Your Social Security Number (SSN).
It’s not enough to hide your Social Security card away and hope for the best. With the number of data breaches in the past decade there’s a good chance your number is available to hackers on the Dark Web.
Instead, Social Security number monitoring (SSN monitoring) is one of the only ways to ensure scammers aren’t using your SSN to steal your identity, take out credit cards or loans in your name, or use your Medicare benefits.
What Can a Scammer Do With My Social Security Number?
Social Security numbers were originally developed to track your lifetime earnings and determine eligibility for retirement benefits. But today, your SSN is used for everything from opening new credit card accounts to buying a home and applying for a passport.
This means, if a thief gets access to your SSN, they can wreak havoc on nearly every aspect of your life.
Here are a few types of identity fraud and scams a thief can commit with your Social Security number:
- Commit synthetic identity theft, where they combine your SSN with other information to create a “fake” identity.
- Apply for jobs in your name (employment fraud).
- Open a new account at a financial institution.
- Take out payday loans or other fraudulent loans in your name.
- Drain your existing bank accounts.
- Get medical treatment under your name and use up your health benefits (medical identity theft).
- Apply for a new passport or driver’s license using your name.
- File a fraudulent tax return with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and steal your rebate.
- Steal benefits from government agencies. For example, unemployment benefits, pandemic relief, or Social Security benefits.
- Open accounts in your child’s name and ruin their clean credit history
Your SSN is a golden ticket for identity thieves. Of all the sensitive information tied to your identity, your SSN is the one thing you want to be especially careful about.
📚 Related: What Information Do Cyber Criminals Steal? →
What Is Social Security Monitoring (SSN Monitoring)?
Social Security monitoring is an automated service that monitors how your SSN is being used. For example, if a fraudster uses your SSN to open a new bank account in your name, you'll be alerted and can shut it down.
But can’t you do this on your own?
While some parts of your identity can be monitored manually, there’s no easy way to “check” if someone else is using your Social Security number.
For example, if a scammer uses your SSN to apply for a passport or get a new driver’s license in your name, how would you know? Or what about if they use your child’s SSN to open new bank accounts?
That’s where Social Security monitoring comes in.
Social Security monitoring is a critical part of identity theft protection services. If an identity thief is using your SSN for fraudulent activities, you’ll have the chance to shut it down before it’s too late.
But criminals aren’t only after your SSN. They also want your bank account information, credit card numbers, online passwords, and more. That’s why most SSN monitoring is bundled with other identity monitoring tools, such as:
- Credit monitoring. Identity monitoring plans should give you 3-bureau credit monitoring. While you can manually monitor your credit once a year, automatic credit monitoring alerts you to new activity in your credit file.
- Dark Web monitoring. A Dark Web monitoring tool acts as a search engine to look for pieces of your stolen information that have been listed for sale on Dark Web black markets. When it hits on a match, it will alert the user, allowing them to take action, change passwords, and protect the exposed information.
- Online account monitoring. If hackers gain access to your online accounts, they can destroy your credit and your reputation. These tools monitor your linked accounts for compromised passwords or signs they’ve been hacked. Some even include power password managers to keep your passwords organized and secure.
- Public database monitoring. Criminals can use your SSN to commit crimes or even put your name on the sex offender’s list. By monitoring public databases around the country, you’ll be alerted if anyone has used your SSN or identity for nefarious purposes.
Together, these tools give you more comprehensive protection against identity theft.
📚 Related: Was Your SSN Found on the Dark Web? Do This →
How Do Scammers Get Access to Your Social Security Number?
According to Aura, there were 37 billion identifying documents exposed in 2020 alone! Unfortunately, that means there’s a decent chance your SSN and account numbers are already available to scammers on the Dark Web.
But how do identity thieves get your information in the first place? The most common ways that Social Security numbers get stolen are:
- Phishing texts and emails. A scammer might send you a scam email or text claiming to be from a government agency like the FBI or the IRS and request your personal information. Remember, these agencies will never ask for your information over email, SMS, or social media.
- Fraudulent websites. Identity thieves will create fake websites that look legitimate and ask you to input your SSN.
- Hacking through unsecure Wi-Fi or malware. Public Wi-Fi networks can be targeted by hackers to intercept your personal information. Or, they might trick you into downloading malware on your device that gives them access to your files. To stay safe, consider a VPN (virtual private network) with Wi-Fi and device protection.
- Mail theft (aka “dumpster diving”). Scammers might steal discarded mail from lenders, credit card companies, or anyone else who uses your SSN.
- Physical theft. Thieves might steal your wallet, or bribe employees who have access to your SSN.
What To Do If Your SSN Has Been Stolen
If you find out that someone else has access to your Social Security number, there are a few critical steps you need to take to stop the damage.
1. Place a credit freeze on your accounts
The first thing you need to do is freeze your credit accounts so the scammers can’t open new accounts in your name. Anyone can place a credit freeze on their account, even if they haven’t been the victim of identity theft.
To put a freeze on your account, contact each of the three credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
2. Contact any affected companies immediately
If you know where a scammer used your SSN — such as with your bank or a company — contact them directly. Make sure you have other documentation to prove your identity and stop the thief from continuing to use your information.
3. File an FTC report, contact the SSA, and alert the IRS
ID theft is a serious crime. Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and file a formal report via IdentityTheft.gov. You’ll also want to contact the Social Security Administration and IRS and alert them of your situation.
4. File a police report with your local law enforcement
If an identity thief uses your Social Security number to commit crimes, you could face serious issues. Filing a police report can protect you from any illegal activity done under your name.
5. Set up fraud alerts and credit monitoring
More than 30% of identity theft happens to people who were previously targeted [*]. If you know your SSN was compromised, set up fraud alerts and monitoring to alert you of suspicious activity on your account.
6. Sign up for identity theft protection and insurance
An identity theft protection service monitors all aspects of your identity and alerts you of any suspicious activity. And if you get targeted, they’ll even cover eligible losses due to identity theft and fraud.
For example, every Aura user is covered by a $1 million identity theft insurance policy. Plus, their experienced White Glove Fraud Resolution team will help you secure your accounts and get your life back on track.
7. Change your Social Security number
It’s not always possible to change your Social Security number — even if you’re the victim of identity theft. However, the SSA may give you a new one if you’re dealing with ongoing financial harm and you’ve tried all other avenues for securing your SSN.
Can I Monitor My SSN and Identity Myself?
There are certain elements of your identity — such as your credit score — that are visible and easy to monitor on your own.
Under the Fair Credit Report Act (FCRA), you're entitled to one full, free credit report a year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies.To see yours, just visit AnnualCreditReport.com.
If a credit card has been opened in your name, or a bank or creditor has done a hard pull of your credit history, a yearly review will allow you to dispute anything you don’t recognize.
Unfortunately, checking your credit history once a year is rarely enough to protect yourself from identity theft. Speed matters when it comes to clamping down on scammers. A monitoring service does the work for you and alerts you in near-real time when you’re at risk of fraud.
How Much Does Identity and SSN Monitoring Cost?
Identity theft and SSN monitoring plans range in cost depending on the provider and the services they offer. Most companies bundle SSN monitoring with other forms of identity theft protection. This could include credit monitoring, Dark Web scanning, and antivirus software.
For the simplest, most powerful SSN monitoring, Identity Guard’s Value Plan is $6.67 per month (as of August 2023) and including data breach notifications and high-risk transaction monitoring.
Who Can Benefit From Identity Monitoring?
You might think you only need identity monitoring if your data was exposed in a breach or your wallet was stolen. But with the billions of pieces of sensitive information leaked daily, we’re all at risk of identity theft.
The Bottom Line: Monitor Your SSN for Peace of Mind
It doesn’t matter how secure you’ve been with the rest of your sensitive information. If a scammer gets access to your Social Security number, they’ll have all they need to ruin your credit and even reputation.
An SSN monitoring service gives you peace of mind that no one is out there using your information for the wrong purposes.