Traditionally, trading an old number for a new one is something that leans toward the extreme. Not only does the Social Security Administration demand heavy, documented proof of hardship, it also means that a person must track down every bank, utility, credit card and government agency that might have the old number on file and persuade them to use the new number.
But despite the obstacles, the SSA has issued new numbers for those citing identity theft as the reason. Social Security numbers can be particularly valuable assets in the hands of a criminal. With little more than a valid Social Security number and a street address, a criminal can fraudulently open credit card accounts or apply for loans in someone else’s name.
When you change your SS number, you cut off a thief, but you also get to make a fresh start with a clean credit history. But people are often disappointed when this doesn’t solve their problems. In fact, some privacy advocates warn that it can actually make things worse.
When a new number is assigned, the SSA doesn’t delete the old one. Instead, it links the two numbers, because it needs both to compute when the person retires. That means that when a creditor looks at the victim’s credit report, they see a clean record linked to a troubled one. It raises flags and looks suspicious.
So it’s easy to see that changing your number won’t help; it will only serve to complicate things. It’s better to work on cleaning up your own credit mess, even if it takes a while.
Being proactive with the protection of your Social Security number is crucial. LifeLock will monitor for credit and non-credit related threats to your SSN and other personal information, and notify you the moment any issues are detected, effectively shutting down the crook before he can get started.
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