If you have been a victim of identity theft or domestic abuse, and are still running into problems that resulted from the misuse of your Social Security number, the Social Security Administration (SSA) may be able to assign you a completely new Social Security number.
But the SSA only issues new numbers on a case-by-case basis and can only give you a new number if it’s clear that – despite your attempts to fix the situation – you are still having problems because your identity was stolen or compromised.
The Social Security Administration will also provide a new SSN to someone who is a victim of family violence and is trying to get away from an abusive situation. In such situations, relocating and creating a new identity (including a new Social Security number) may be the only way to keep a person safe.
However, the SSA cannot give you a new Social Security number just because you want to re-establish credit, avoid the consequences of filing for bankruptcy, or skirt the law or any of your legal responsibilities.
Additionally, if you’ve simply lost or misplaced your Social Security card, but you can’t provide solid evidence that someone is actually using your Social Security number, your request for a new Social Security number will be denied.
While it make seem like a terrific idea to be able to get a new Social Security number, keep in mind that there are both pros and cons of doing so.
Here’s what you need to know:
Benefits of Getting a New Social Security Number
The primary benefit of getting a new SSN is to prevent further problems from misuse of your old one.
If you find that someone is still using your Social Security number to open credit accounts, report income, file taxes, or apply for jobs using your name, you need to take steps to protect your identity.
Getting a new Social Security number after a particularly terrible case of identity theft will help you get a fresh start when applying for credit and jobs yourself, but you will need to inform creditors and even employers that the change occurred so that they can tie your number to the right credit history.
Drawbacks of Getting a New Social Security Number
When it comes to the drawbacks of getting a new Social Security number, one of the biggest hassles will be the paperwork and logistical hurdles you’ll face in dealing with many bureaucratic organizations.
The IRS, DMV, banks, credit reporting companies, and some private businesses will likely still have your old number on file. And they’ll all have their own policies and procedures for dealing with an identity theft problem or a request on your part that they update your Social Security number.
Credit reporting agencies, in particular, cannot guarantee that you will actually get a “fresh start” with your new Social Security number because your old number was tied to your original credit record and credit history.
This can be a bigger problem if your name and address are the same, but now you have two different identifying numbers.
You also won’t be able to use your old number any more as soon as the new one is issued. So be prepared to contact each and every creditor and organization maintaining your Social Security number, (schools, insurance firms, even utility companies, etc.) to let them know that your Social Security number has been changed.
Finally, realize that an absence of credit history can end up hurting you, too, because with a new Social Security number, and the possibility of no documented, past credit history, some lenders may not want to grant you credit or loans. This is often the case with people who have “no credit” or “thin” credit files.
Therefore, plan to be well-prepared to explain your situation. You’ll probably have to call and write letters to explain and document your circumstances. That way, the companies or businesses with which you currently have dealings can link your new Social Security number to the right file or account.
Also, having a written explanation ready for other companies or organizations that may need your Social Security number in the future will help things go a lot more smoothly too.