Changing Your Social Security Number

Effective November 4, 1998, the Social Security Administration (SSA) changed its existing policy of assigning new Social Security numbers (SSN) to victims of harassment, abuse, or life endangerment, including victims of domestic violence, to make it easier to obtain new SSNs. The change in policy was designed to make it easier for these individuals to elude their abusers and reduce the risk of further violence. Since its implementation, many questions and concerns have arisen about potential risks to individuals who may not be fully aware of the issues involved in obtaining a new Social Security number. This information alert will attempt to address those issues. What You Should Know If You Are Thinking About Applying For A New Social Security Number. Potential Impact of Changing Identity/ Social Security Numbers BE AWARE - Changing the SSN should not be looked upon as the key to safety. Third parties can cross-reference the new SSN with the old number, as allowed by their statutes, policies and procedures. In Addition, the victim may experience less freedom to travel (due to lack of documents), which can raise potential safety issues. REMEMBER - Getting a new Social Security number is only one part of a safety plan. It is recommended that when applying for a new Social Security number, the victim take evidence that shows a pro-active intent/plan to evade the abuser. This evidence may include a safety plan, which includes making a name change, getting an unlisted telephone number, moving to another address, changing jobs. A victim must understand that changing identity, including the SSN, is a life-altering decision. It is important to keep in mind the potential impact of these changes, such as: The inability to get a passport or other federal documentation due to the lack of having a birth certificate under the new identity. The loss of previous work history resulting in the victim having to accept positions for which he/she is overqualified or positions in which he/she has no experience. Difficulties or delays in receiving Federal/State benefits, such as welfare, disability, SSI. Difficulty trying to prove past abuse if past medical records and court papers are in a different name. SSA does not invalidate or destroy the original SSN when a new SSN is assigned. The original and new SSNs are cross-referred in SSA's records to make sure that the individual gets credit for all earnings and to ensure the integrity of Social Security's programs. SSA maintains the confidentiality of all its records and will not disclose information about an individual's SSN without the individual's consent, unless required by law to do so. SSA requires that each individual requesting information about him/herself properly identify him/herself as the subject of the record. An individual requesting information in person must present documentary evidence. An individual requesting information over the phone must provide six pieces of identifying information, which SSA can verify from its records. NOTE: SSA has added an extra layer of security when an SSN has been assigned based on harassment, abuse, or life endangerment. SSA has implemented procedures to prevent inappropriate/erroneous disclosure of SSN information over the phone when a new number has been assigned in these situations, which includes domestic violence. The caller will be advised to go to the local field office for an in-person interview and properly identify him/herself as the

Third Party Cross-Referral and Disclosure Policies IMPORTANT NOTE: Credit Bureaus and other third parties also have the ability to crossreference SSNs in their data bases. (See the "Protecting the New SSN" section below. or local government agencies to determine whether a person qualifies for benefits paid by the Federal government. heath and welfare programs such as Medicaid. as required by law. contact NCADV's Public Policy Office at 202-745-1211 or policy@ncadv. Therefore. Information provided to SSA may be used to match records by computer. Congressional representatives if they request information to answer questions you ask them. or life endangerment situations. Medicare. you are still experiencing difficulty with your local office. Department of Health and Human Services for child support enforcement purposes. as authorized by the Social Security Act. If there are any problems applying for the new SSN. ask to speak with a supervisor or the field office manager. Government agencies administering entitlement. must disclose the new SSN information to other government agencies such as: Law enforcement agencies to investigate violation of Social Security Laws.. If. housing student loans. SSA's Cross Referral and Disclosure Policies SSA. If the SSA representative at the Social Security office is not aware of the current policy for assigning new SSNs in harassment. after going through all of these steps.) Applying for a New SSN Take the following steps to apply for a new SSN: Make an appointment to be interviewed in person at an SSA field office by calling 1-800-7721213(voice) or 1-800-325-0778(TTY) or go directly to an SSA field office for the in-person interview.S. State motor vehicles agencies that use the number in issuing drivers' licenses to verify the Social Security numbers. veterans benefits. Internal Revenue Service for federal tax administration. Third parties also share information maintained in their data bases. which are allowed by law. SSA has no control over what uses third parties make of an individual's SSN. and civil service annuities. refer the representative to Program Operations Manual System (POMS) chapter RM 00205. State. Department of Justice. Selective Service System for draft registration.subject of the record before SSN information will be disclosed. Immigration and Naturalization Service to identify and locate aliens in the U. black lung.org. Be prepared to complete a statement explaining the need for a new number and a Form SS-5 (Application for a Social Security Card). . military pension. it is important to take steps to protect the new number. Matching programs. railroad retirement benefits and food stamps. abuse. compare SSA records with those of other Federal.

Photocopies and notarized copies of documents are not acceptable. or life endangerment must be careful about sharing the new number with those who ask for it. such as when applying for a car loan. Ask if there is a choice about the use of personal information: can it be .Take evidence of age. Protecting the new SSN If the application is approved and a new number is assigned. (Note that SSA is authorized to provide the new SSN to agencies and organizations listed under the "SSA's Cross Referral and Disclosure Policies" section of this Information Alert. Other evidence might include court restraining orders. It is not necessary to give a business the SSN just because they ask for it. The parent requesting the new SSN needs to consider whether a new SSN will help him/her elude the harasser/abuser if the harasser/abuser is the other parent with visitation rights. such as a court order for a name change could be used to show both the old and new name. medical facilities or doctors and describes the nature and extent of the domestic violence. If someone asks for the SSN. if needed. find out how it will be used and whether it will be shared by others. Here are some suggestions on how to minimize the number of organizations that will have access to the new SSN: Employers and financial institutions will likely need the SSN for wage and tax reporting purposes. passport. or others with knowledge of the domestic violence. letters from shelters. A single document. SSA will not furnish the number to unauthorized third parties.S. Two separate documents. SSA will keep the new number and records confidential. These questions will help the individual decide whether sharing the SSN with the business is worth the service or benefit. letters and/or affidavits from family members. If a victim wants new SSNs for his/her children. however. SSA will assist him/her in obtaining any additional corroborating evidence.) Take original documents or copies certified by the custodian of the record. The best evidence of abuse comes from third parties. Other private businesses may need the SSN to do a credit check. identity. such as a birth certificate and driver's license. However. divorce record. ask the following questions: Why do you need my SSN? How will my SSN be used? What law requires me to give you my SSN? What will happen if I don't give you my SSN? Before revealing any personally identifying information. If the client has a new name. SSA will not assign one parent a new SSN to deny the other parent courtordered visitation privileges or otherwise assist one parent from hiding the child from the other parent. victims of harassment. take one or more documents identifying him/her by both the old name on SSA's records and the new names. school ID card could be used to show the old and new names. military record. such as a drivers license.) Therefore. insurance policy. employer ID card. friends. abuse. a business may not provide the service or benefit if a SSN is not provided. take evidence showing he/she has legal custody of those children. such as police. Sometimes. and U. Take all evidence documenting the harassment/abuse. counselors. they simply want the SSN for general record keeping. (A birth certificate is not an identity document. citizenship or lawful alien status.

Tear or shred copies of credit applications or any documents that contain identity information before discarding them. which includes domestic violence. SSA has implemented procedures to prevent inappropriate/erroneous disclosure of SSN information over the phone when a new number has been assigned in these situations. What protections does SSA have in place so that third parties cannot access the new Social Security Number? SSA has added an extra layer of security when an SSN has been assigned based on harassment. changing schools. Since SSA assigns a SSN based on the name shown on the identity document submitted with the application for a new number. or life endangerment. or life endangerment situations. All victims must realize the importance of keeping their records documenting domestic abuse with them so that their safety will not be compromised because they must go back to their former lives to obtain sufficient documentation of abuse to support an application for a new SSN. such as changing addresses. . Frequently Asked Questions with Answers Provided by SSA Who should you contact if the SSA representative at the local office is not aware of the current policy for assigning new SSNs in harassment. SSA will not assign a third number just because the individual later changes his/her name. abuse. But changing one's name and SSN are just two steps in a person's safety plan. The caller will be advised to go to the local field office for an in-person interview and properly identify him/herself as the subject of the record before SSN information will be disclosed. the records will be updated and a corrected card will be issued showing the new name and the current SSN. Do not carry your SSN card. it is best that the applicant have a document identifying him/her by the new name when applying for the new number. abuse. Ask to use other types of identifiers when possible. Keep items with personal information in a safe place. Find out who has access to your personal information at work and verify that the record is kept in a secure location.kept confidential? Do not give out personal information on the phone. or life endangerment situations. through the mail or over the Internet unless the contact was self-initiated or you know who you are dealing with. ask to speak with a supervisor or the field office manager. The above list contains only a few suggestions on how to keep one's identity and SSN safe. first refer the representative to SSA's instructions in Program Operations Manual System (POMS) chapter RM 00205. which includes domestic violence? If the SSA representative at the Social Security office is not aware of the current policy for assigning new SSNs in harassment. Should a person change his/her name before contacting SSA for a new number? Changing one's name is one of the important steps a victim needs to take for personal protection. Rather. If there are any problems applying for the new SSN. and/or changing jobs. We encourage other steps to be taken as well. Give your SSN only when absolutely necessary. keep it in a secure place to prevent loss or theft. These include being tracked by bank or credit records and telephone records of family and friends still in contact with the victim. abuse. Keep in mind that people can be located in many other ways.

regardless of the reason why an individual has more than one SSN.How accessible is the new number from the old number and vice versa? SSA employees with proper clearances have access to cross-reference information. . This information is necessary to conduct SSA business. This is important information so you can make the most educated decision about your safety needs and options.