Can I Change My Social Security Number?

Concerned about a recent incident in which his wife’s social security number may have been exposed (by a Bank of America employee, but that’s another story), Christian wants to know if you can change your social security number. In special circumstances, yes, the Social Security Administration will change your number. You need to show proof that 1) you’ve suffered harm from someone misusing your ss# and 2) you’ve made all reasonable efforts to otherwise solve the problem i.e. credit report freezes, closing accounts and changing account numbers, etc. If both of these apply, then you can simply visit your local SSA office, call, or visit www.ssa.gov/reach.htm.

When Someone Else Uses Your Social Security Number [SSA.gov]

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  1. handyr says:

    Witness protection.

  2. infinitemonkeys says:

    That is the ‘legal’ answer and technically correct. When the SSN was first implemented, there was such fear that it would become the dreaded national identity card that would ultimately allow some ruthless dictator to herd us all systematically into death camps, there was a provision put in allowing one time in each person’s life the option to change their SSN.
    In practice, the SS Administration keeps this option very quiet and plays a frustrating game to prevent it being used. I have more than one friend who suffered identity theft, severe demonstrable harm, yet the SS Admin would not let them exercise this option. They use catch-22 logic to prevent you. If you’re still being harmed, they say you need to straighten that out before you could possibly change. If you’re not, then they say the problem is resolved and you don’t need to change.
    I’d be highly interested to hear of any others who have had positive success exercising this legal option.

    • ceejeemcbeegee is not here says:

      @infinitemonkeys: When the SSN was first implemented, there was such fear that it would become the dreaded national identity card that would ultimately allow some ruthless dictator to herd us all systematically into death camps.

      Ruthless dictator: FICO
      Death Camp: Debt

    • LiquidGravity says:

      @infinitemonkeys:

      Its nice when they mutate a system that was to not be used for personal identification and force it on you as personal identification. Plus its gotta be the easiest card (used for ID) to counterfeit.

    • orielbean says:

      @infinitemonkeys: @infinitemonkeys: @ARP: Correct, if you are a Sole Proprietorship as a small business owner, you still use your SSN. If you declare a separate, sue-able, legal entity then you can get a Tax Id.

    • elocanth says:

      @infinitemonkeys: It is exceedingly hard to get them to give you a new number, yes. My wife had her identity stolen and it took her THREE YEARS to convince them to give her one. As you say, despite a mountain of evidence to prove your case, they can and will ignore your pleas for help. In the end, tenacity is the best tool.

  3. Mr-Mr says:

    I’m not sure. I know that you can request a Tax Identification Number.

    • ARP says:

      @Mr-Mr: I think your Tax ID is your SS#, unless you’re a business. Can anyone confirm?

      • econobiker says:

        @ARP: Tax ID numbers are used by people who cannot get SS#s such as visiting legal aliens and illegal immigrants. I was in an walk-in medical clinic and a (presumed illegal) was being asked if he had a Tax ID number…

        • Luckie says:

          @econobiker: That kind of thing REALLY gets to me. Along with all the huge billboards in Spanish saying “Buy.rent a home/apartment! Tax ID Accepted!” There’s even a few that say that they don’t even need that.

          I refuse to move into those places, no matter how nice they are and what a good value for the money.

          • jamar0303 says:

            @Luckie: Um… I’m also pretty sure that Tax ID is for businesses. The off-chance exists that you’d use a Tax ID instead of SSN if it’s not for personal use.

  4. IamNotToddDavis says:

    The other thing to keep in mind if you want to change your SS# is the fact that this means you start over with your credit profile with the bureaus.

    Of course, this isn’t garaunteed either. Sometimes the bureaus will create a subfile for your new SS# and attach some of the old accounts from your previous SS#.

    Suffice to say, changing your SS# should be the ABSOLUTE LAST resort to dealing with ID theft.

  5. mmmsoap says:

    You need to show proof that 1) you’ve suffered harm from someone misusing your ss# and 2) you’ve made all reasonable efforts to otherwise solve the problem

    What a terrible policy. To change your credit card number, you don’t need to show that someone has actually stolen it, just that you believe there’s a possibility that it has been stolen. If your SSN has been stolen, but not actually used fraudulently yet, why should you have to live your life for years in fear that your identity could be stolen, rather than change your number?

    Sounds like the kind of policy that one well-publicized scandal or lawsuit would change…

    • jswilson64 says:

      @mmmsoap: Who you gonna sue? The government? Be sure to report back here once you’ve got your precedent…

    • ARP says:

      @mmmsoap: I’m not sure what you’re looking for. There are countless instances of lives being ruined by ID theft and I doubt they were able to change their SS#. I think people are resigned to the fact that this is a possibility they have to face. I think the source of the problem is the credit agencies and the fact that they have complete control over your (financial) life, with only a few regulations to control them.

      • econobiker says:

        @ARP: Don’t forget the IRS in keeping track of you too…

      • mmmsoap says:

        @ARP: There are countless instances of lives being ruined by ID theft and I doubt they were able to change their SS#.

        That is exactly my point! Changing your social security number in all it’s iterations can hardly be more difficult than changing your name…in the day when identity theft is a real problem (and ID thieves know that SSNs are basically permanent) why not ameliorate the problem a bit by making SSNs changable with proper cause. I’m not saying that people should be able to change numbers just because they don’t like theirs, but when there’s evidence that the information is no longer secure.

        The government made this number, perhaps by accident rather than design, essentially a national ID number, but the onus on protecting it (and your identity) is not solely on the consumer. Consumers need to put their faith that any company that accessed their SSN will also keep it secure, and we’ve all seen how well that goes…

  6. SciotoSurfer says:

    I’m not sure if it’s still true, but at one time they would let you change your number if, like mine, it contains 666.

    From 1999 CNN article: “We will, upon request, upon having documentation that there is religious conviction involved, reassign them a number,” says agency spokesman John Trollinger.

    [money.cnn.com]

    • Luckie says:

      @SciotoSurfer: Can I request that number? :D

    • Lucky225 says:

      @SciotoSurfer:

      It is still true, but all 3 sixes must be in a row. Another one is if your number contains ’13′ and you suffer from Triskaidekaphobia.

      Finally you can not CHANGE your social security number, they simply ASSIGN you a NEW *SECOND* NUMBER. There’s really no point in using a 2nd number if you happen upon identify theft, because the second one will not give you a SECOND credit report, contrary to popular belief. Your name, date of birth, addresses all tie you to you, so a 2nd SSN will just show as a SECOND number in your credit report. A second number is not a second identity, you still remain the same person, same name, born on the same day, residing at the same residence. And since identity theives already have your FIRST SSN, they can request your credit report with it which will reveal your new SSN. This is why I don’t give out my SSN at all. Another untrue popular belief is that you need an SSN to establish credit, but just like I said before your name, dob and address all identify YOU. There may be 1000s of John Smiths out there, but only one John Smith was born on August 28th, 1968 in Sacremento, CA with a mother’s maiden name of Bell, residing in Grand Prarie, TX. While the SSN is considered a de facto national identifier, not everyone has one, and the credit bureaus know this and you don’t need one to get a credit report. There’s a reason your credit file # w/ the bureau isn’t your SSN.

  7. aerick79 says:

    If you had Some Identity Theft you should Federal Trade Commission Identity Theft Hotline. 1-877-438-4338 Even if you had your wallet or purse stolen or lost.

    My 2 cents

  8. Hotscot says:

    I know of someone using my SS# in San Francisco. However apparently that is not a reportable crime unless they use the info to defraud me.

  9. 310Drew says:

    Anyone can register for an EIN number if you say you are self employed. That however does not replace your SS #

  10. lauy says:

    I recall also reading once that the SSA will not allow a proven ID Theft victim change their SSN if they have ever declared bankruptcy.

    Fight Club had the right idea.