Identity theft affects about 10 million Americans each year. If you’ve been a victim of identity theft and someone has misused your Social Security number, it is possible to get a new Social Security number.
There’s also one other time when you can get a new Social Security number. It’s when you’ve been the victim of family violence and you’re trying to get out of an abusive situation. In such situations, relocating and creating a new identity – including a new Social Security number – may be the only way to for you to stay safe.
But the process of getting a new Social Security number isn’t as easy as you might think. And doing has its pros and cons.
Here’s how to know if you should ask the Social Security Administration to assign you a completely new Social Security number.
For starters, realize that the Social Security Administration only issues new numbers on a case-by-case basis. The agency will 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.
You can’t get 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.
Also, if you’ve simply misplaced or lost your Social Security card, but you can’t provide proof that someone is actually using your Social Security number, your request for a new Social Security number will be denied.
The primary benefit of getting a new SSN is to prevent further problems from misuse of your old one. You don’t want some crook using your Social Security number to open credit accounts, report income, file taxes, or even apply for jobs using your name.
But there are a few drawbacks to getting a new Social Security number.
First, there’s a ton of paperwork and logistical hurdles.
The IRS, DMV, banks, credit reporting companies, and many private businesses are all bureaucratic organizations. They 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 can’t 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. 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.
Your best bet is to have a written explanation ready for companies or organizations that may need your Social Security number. In the future, that will help things go a lot more smoothly.