Identity theft begins with the stealing of a social security number (SSN) and heads south from there, instilling fear into the heart of the victim. The thief leaves a trail of destruction that can only be repaired with identity restoration. The signs of a stolen SSN provide you the victim with a clear path to fixing the situation and returning your life to normalcy.

Signs Your SSN Has Been Compromised

Missing a bill? You may be a victim of identity theft.
Missing a bill? You may be a victim of identity theft.

Common signs that someone has stolen your SSN include various problems related to your financial accounts and passwords. If you cannot log in to an account or use your ATM card with the proper PIN, it's possible that your SSN has been compromised. A bill or statement may stop coming because a thief has changed the address or you may accidentally receive merchandise that you did not order.

Problems Related to Your Credit

Protect your SSN from thieves.
Protect your SSN from thieves.

Imagine trying to buy a car and being declined for an auto loan unexpectedly. Unexpected credit declines occur when your SSN has been stolen. You may also experience odd charges on your credit cards or creditors calling to collect on an unpaid bill. Or you may have your latte purchase at your favorite coffee shop declined. These are all bad signs that your SSN is in the hands of the wrong people.

Confusion With the IRS at Tax Time

File your return early before identity thieves beat you to the punch.
File your return early before identity thieves beat you to the punch.

Suppose you file your taxes on time and receive a notification from the Internal Revenue Service that someone with a different name has filed taxes with the same SSN with which you filed. You might be the victim of a scam where an identity thief is trying to receive your tax refund. Be careful of any communications from the IRS that may be illegitimate. Criminals may illegally pose as IRS officials in a letter or a phone call, attempting to dupe you.

How to Protect Yourself From Identity Theft

Keep your computer safe.
Keep your computer safe.

The most important step in protecting yourself from SSN theft is to only give out your SSN to legitimate entities such as government authorities, employers or financial institutions with which you are conducting business. Secure your Social Security card. Don't carry documents with your SSN listed. Shred rather than throw away mail. Maintain adequate computer security. Check your credit report at least annually. These steps will minimize the risk associated with SSN theft.