How to Find Out if Your Social Security Number has Been Stolen, Internet Dating Scams and Phishing by Phone:

Does this simple method work to find out if your Social Security number has been stolen? Internet ScamBusters #204

Today we’re doing another subscriber Q&A issue. Many subscribers asked the first question about how to tell if your Social Security number is being used by someone else — be sure to check out the answer (it may well surprise you):

  • Can’t you simply review Your Social Security Statement to find out if your Social Security number has been stolen?
  • Is this another Internet dating scam?
  • Was the call I just received a phishing scam by phone?

Let’s get going with today’s subscriber Q&A…

Internet ScamBusters Q&A

Question: Thank you for your information regarding identity theft. As a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor, I often send some of my clients to the Employment Commission in my state to obtain a statement of wages and earnings that shows by their Social Security number what jobs they have held and where they were located.

Isn’t it possible to approach the Social Security Administration and obtain a complete report of all wages and earnings by using your Social Security number? I would think this should show any and all activity reported under a specific number.

Thanks for keeping us updated and aware.

Answer: After our Special Issue #200 called “Startling Facts About Identity Theft,” we had hundreds of subscribers who offered similar advice:

You can find this special identity theft ScamBusters issue here.

Many subscribers used our feedback form to let us know that they believed there is a very simple way to know whether or not your Social Security number is being used by someone else: “Check your Social Security Statement.”

Your Social Security Statement is a “personal record of the earnings on which you have paid Social Security taxes during your working years and a summary of the estimated benefits you and your family may receive as a result of those earnings.”

You can request a copy here by clicking on the “Need to request a Statement?” link.

Subscribers suggested that you could simply compare what you know your earnings to be with what is recorded on your Social Security Statement.

Then, they argued, if there are more earnings recorded on your Social Security Statement than what you know you earned, it is likely that someone else is using your Social Security number.

Although this is very logical, it is NOT a surefire way to know if someone else is using your Social Security number.

We called the Social Security Administration, and this is what we learned:

According to the Social Security Administration, your Social Security Statement does NOT necessarily contain any information that would lead you to know that your Social Security number had been stolen.

It MAY include their earnings if someone is using your Social Security number. However, someone may well be using your Social Security number and those earning may well NOT be reflected on your Social Security Statement.

For example, if the Social Security Administration gets reports from a variety of employers with employees who use your Social Security number, these will likely not be included on your Social Security Statement.

So, although this method of finding out whether your Social Security number has been stolen seems logical, it is definitely not a definitive way to know if your Social Security number has been compromised.

One additional note: We often get asked if we can give more info on related topics for other countries. Here is what a subscriber wrote about the policies of printing the equivalent of Social Security numbers on checks in Israel:

“The system in Israel has nearly all personal income (wages – pension, etc.) directly deposited into a bank account. The individual’s name and National insurance number [SSN] is printed on all personal checks, so it is never a secret.

“I tried to explain that I do NOT wish to advertise my National insurance number publicly when ordering additional checks at the bank, but was told outright, ‘That’s the law!’ So it is a problem in Israel. The same problem might be experienced in some European countries.”

Question: I think I already know this is a scam, but I’m doing a follow-up. I met this girl named [name deleted] on one of the Internet dating sites.

She says she is from New Castle, England & her father plus kid sister were killed in a car accident. On top of that, she told me her mother is sick with a bad heart.

She went to Nigeria to find an antique because she told me she runs her own business.

I’ve already sent her over $1000 through Western Union & probably more. She has even sent me pics of the accident. I’m still unsure if she is legit.

I’m still in contact with her, but she tells me she needs money for a new cable for her modem. Plus she said something about a refund from the antique that I think I might have to take care of, but this is all very sketchy & my gut tells me to ask for advice before I go any further with her if that is the case. Hope you can help.

Answer: We’re sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but this is a classic Internet dating scam. This “woman” may even be a man.

Although the details and the reasons vary, these dating scams all involve hard luck stories and asking for money. The scammer continues with more and more requests for money until the victim stops sending money. Then, contact stops and the scammer goes after the next victim.

You can read more about online dating scams like this here.

Question: Pretty sure I just got phished by phone. The guy said he was calling from Verizon, which had just merged with MCI (my service), and I had to set up a new package.

I asked if he could send me paperwork, and he said it had to be done by tomorrow. Loud bells went off in my head, and I hung up on him. Thanks to you folks for keeping me alert to this stuff.

Answer: You are correct. Phishing is happening more and more by phone. Glad to hear you didn’t get taken!

That’s all for today — we’ll see you next week.