In the early part of the decade when interest rates were low, Sharon and Steve thought it would be a good time to refinance the mortgage on one of the four properties they own in eastern Pennsylvania. While they got a good rate from the finance company and the transaction went smoothly, the couple noticed some serious financial mysteries shortly after the ink on the contract had dried.
“We noticed some weird things showing up on bank statements, and we were getting bills from companies where we did not have credit cards,” Sharon says. “Someone at the refinancing company got hold of our Social Security numbers, and it’s been awfully frustrating for us ever since.”
Sharon is a contract negotiator and notary. Steve works as a senior security sales consultant. In a lot of instances, in which a couple’s identity has been stolen, financial ruin is the result. The couple hasn’t lost their financial standing, but it takes a great deal of detail work almost every day to maintain their good credit rating.
“We keep immaculate records, and we are constantly monitoring everything,” Sharon says. “We have to file police reports, have documents notarized, and get post office records to prove that we have lived in the same place for 20 years. Every day we have to deal with something. It’s just awful.”
In addition to the constant monitoring, Sharon and Steve now have Identity Theft Insurance as well, something they never would have even considered purchasing a decade ago.
Besides the ID Theft Insurance purchase and the constant monitoring of their records and finances, Sharon sees other changes in herself and her husband.
“We’re more aware of what is going on around us,” she says. “We’re not as outgoing as we used to be. I have become a lot more jaded. It’s not cleared up, and it may never be, but we’re on top of it all of the time. My husband gets a call every single day from someone regarding the theft of our identification and a purchase from somewhere.”
In addition to the cell phones, the ID thieves have also made purchases from retail stores like the Gap and J.C. Penney. The purchases have been made in North and South Carolina as well as New York and New Jersey and several other states. The thief or thieves have made purchases in places Sharon and Steve have never seen. And Sharon and Steve’s identities have probably been sold several times as well. The person or persons originally involved with the crime could be out of the picture, according to authorities.
“The person or persons who originally stole our Social Security numbers has probably sold or has given our information to someone else, according to some of the police we’ve spoken with,” Sharon says. “We’ve lived in the same house and had the same telephone numbers for a long time. Telephone numbers and home addresses you can change. How do you change your Social Security number? How do you get a new one?”
On the Frequently Asked Questions page of the Social Security Web site, www.socialsecurity.gov it says:
“If you have done all you can to fix the problems resulting from misuse of your Social Security number and someone still is using your number, we may assign you a new number.
You cannot get a new Social Security number:
- To avoid the consequences of filing for bankruptcy;
- If you intend to avoid the law or your legal responsibility; or
- If your Social Security card is lost or stolen, but there is no evidence that someone is using your number.
If you decide to apply for a new number, you will need to prove your age, U.S. citizenship or lawful immigration status and identity. For more information, ask for Your Social Security Number And Card (Publication Number 05-10002).
You also will need to provide evidence that you still are being disadvantaged by the misuse.
Keep in mind that a new number probably will not solve all your problems. This is because other governmental agencies (such as the Internal Revenue Service and state motor vehicle agencies) and private businesses (such as banks and credit reporting companies) likely will have records under your old number. Also, because credit reporting companies use the number, along with other personal information, to identify your credit record, using a new number will not guarantee you a fresh start. This is especially true if your other personal information, such as your name and address, remains the same.
If you receive a new Social Security number, you will not be able use the old number anymore.
For some victims of identity theft, a new number actually creates new problems. If the old credit information is not associated with the new number, the absence of any credit history under the new number may make it more difficult for you to get credit.
Sharon also sees more of a mess for more people in the future.”
“There is so much information out there and not everyone is reputable,” she says. “Some of the people we rely on to keep our information private are not reputable people. We’ve see overnight couriers lose important documents. Banks have had mortgages files hacked into by computer. Our information is just too available, and this information comes at a terrible price. It’s a mess, and I think it’s going to get worse.”