A Stolen Social Security Number Can Lead To Problems For Disability Claimants

Hopefully, you keep an eye on your Social Security number (SSN) and don't give it out unless necessary. Unfortunately, people can and do get possession of numbers that aren't their own. The thief may not be trying to steal your credit, however–he or she may actually be using the number to gain employment. That can lead to big problems for you if you're trying to file for disability benefits or are currently receiving them. Here's what you should know.

How often does this happen?

The odds are around 1 in 7 that someone other than you has used your SSN. In many cases, it happens by accident. For instance, the most stolen Social Security number in history is 078-05-1120, which belonged to a woman named Hilda Whitcher. In her case, her boss decided to print her number on sample cards that fit into the wallets his company manufactured as part of their promotional materials. Over the years, around 40,000 people have mistaken it for their own SSN. In other cases, people mix up their number with a sibling's or parent's SSN or just mistakenly write down a number that is a digit or two off.

However, many people purposefully use the wrong SSN to obtain employment. For example, it's estimated that 75% of illegal aliens in the U.S. use somebody else's SSN for work. Other people may be hiding from legal trouble or just looking to start a new life far from old problems.

Why could this be a problem for you?

The problem you may encounter, should you either be in the process of filing for disability benefits or already on them, is that the IRS has no way of knowing that you aren't the person really doing the work. The IRS simply records what employers tell them. Then, the information gets automatically sent to the Social Security Administration.

Since Social Security is always on the lookout for fraud, including people who say that they are disabled but are actually working. If wages show up under your SSN in the IRS records, you could find your claim delayed or your benefits halted until you prove otherwise.

What can you do to prove you weren't working?

If you are in the process of filing for disability benefits when the wages are discovered, you'll have to prove that they aren't your wages before you can begin receiving benefits. If you're already receiving benefits, your benefits may stop unless you make a request, in writing, to appeal the cessation of your benefits and to continue receiving those benefits while the appeal is pending. It's important to note that you only have 15 days from the date on the notice to ask for the benefits to continue.

Social Security will then go over the record of wages and employers that are listed under your SSN and you'll be asked to provide personal tax records for each year involved. In addition, Social Security will attempt to contact each of the employers listed and verify whether or not you are the person who was working for them. 

In some cases, it may be easy enough to verify that you weren't the person listed. For example, although many illegal immigrants use false SSNs, they will still work under their own name. In those cases, it is generally easy to determine that you weren't the person employed. If the person using your SSN was also using your name, however, you may be asked to provide additional documentation to help make the determination. For example, if the wages on your record were paid by an employer in Texas, but you live in Ohio, you may be asked to provide rent receipts or a landlord's statement to prove that you were in Ohio during the time period involved.

If you are under suspicion of fraud because of work activity that doesn't belong to you, you might consider enlisting the services of an attorney like Gieg Law Offices or others. If your benefits are being delayed, an attorney can help you gather the necessary documentation to resolve the issue. If your benefits are threatened, an attorney can help you file the appeal to preserve them while the issue is handled.