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Social Security Number Scams: How They Work

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It’s a bit of a dichotomy. We’ve been told many times to be careful about giving out our Social Security numbers, but it seems like we’re being asked for all or part of it in almost every business transaction. I once saw a video rental store — back when there were such things — requiring a customer’s SSN before allowing them to rent a video. One guy refused to give it. They told him to get lost.

But why is it such a big deal? Everyone knows that the answer is “identity theft,” but how?

Your Credit Identity

The most common thing you hear about is someone applying for a loan, only to learn that someone else has opened credit cards in their name and had a spending spree. All it takes to do that is your SSN, and maybe a pre-approved credit card offer in some junk mail you’ve thrown away. These problems are solvable, but not without some incredibly inconvenient process.

And this whole scam can get very easy. Some department stores will have you fill out a one or two page form for a credit card application. They key your SSN into the computer, and give you credit that can be used in the store right away. A thief can load up on clothing, tools, electronics, and leave you holding the bill.

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Your Employment Identity

The most commonly-heard form of this is when employers use stolen Social Security Numbers for undocumented workers. Why would this hurt you? At the end of the year, when you file your taxes, your information will not match what the IRS has on file for you. Suddenly, you tax refund is reduced, and there goes that car you were hoping to put a down payment on.
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Your Political Identity

There is an unbelievable number of people who subscribe to the conspiracy theory that President Obama is using a stolen Connecticut Social Security Number. There have been three different variations on this, all of which have explanations. The notion has been long disproven, but that doesn’t stop it from spinning around the interwebs.

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Social Security Number Scams: How They Work
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