Debt collector asking for Social Security card
May 9, 2010 11:02 AM   Subscribe

I have received a letter from a debt collection agency, dunning me for an account opened in a city where I have never lived. They have provided account information that indicates the account was opened with someone bearing my name (I have a very common last name) and with a Social Security number matching the last four digits of my own. They have demanded a copy of my Social Security card to confirm that I am not the person who opened the account. I am reluctant to provide them this information on privacy grounds. Is their request legal? How can I require them to fully document the identity of the creditor?
posted by zainsubani to Law & Government (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Same name and last 4? Sounds more like identity fraud than coincidence to me, regardless of the common-ness of your surname. My guess is that if they were to fully document the identity of the debtor, it would match yours pretty well. It is almost certainly not in your best interest to provide them with the information they're seeking - that's WHY they're asking you for it, to use it against you later. Tell them that you believe that you've been the victim of identity theft and then nothing whatsoever after that, no matter what they say, ask or threaten.

Then, begin the ID theft cleanup steps listed in this excellent guide.
posted by deadmessenger at 11:12 AM on May 9, 2010 [5 favorites]

Sounds suspicious to me, too. Here's a link regarding debt collection practices and your rights. Even if this is a legitimate agency that has you confused with someone else, it appears the burden of proof is on them, not you.
posted by lovermont at 11:19 AM on May 9, 2010

Sounds more like identity fraud than coincidence to me

Actually, this has happened to me before. Same first name, same last 4 of the social, same state, similar birthday, other similar info. She opened a card and some clerical mixup put it on my credit report. She didn't make any big purchases, and I only noticed because I checked my credit report. I would contact the credit card company first- they cleared it up for me, and I petitioned to have the info removed from my credit report.
posted by emilyd22222 at 11:28 AM on May 9, 2010

I would not send a copy of my SS card to anyone....

The last four of your SSN is fairly common info... don't give them the rest.
posted by HuronBob at 12:34 PM on May 9, 2010

I'd certainly check for ID theft or fraud, but for anecdata, my husband and I have SSNs with 6 out of 9 digits identical. Like SXS SS SXSX, where the S is the same and the X is different. So if you have a very common last name, it's probably an issue of their shoddy research into finding the person who is in debt to them, and not ID fraud, but assume the worst for safety's sake.
posted by kpht at 12:53 PM on May 9, 2010

Could be phishing; how sure are you that the "collection agency" is legit?
posted by jenkinsEar at 1:12 PM on May 9, 2010

This is almost certainly fraud. Contact the credit agency.
posted by charlesv at 1:45 PM on May 9, 2010

nthing that this is certainly either identity theft by someone who opened an account with your info OR the "collection agency" is a phishing front. A very common phishing scam is to provide the last four numbers of your ssn and then to get you to "confirm" the rest; the last four numbers are usually the only part displayed when your info is obscured elsewhere, thus opbtainable for this purpose.
posted by Billegible at 2:08 PM on May 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Definitely do a search for the name of the collection agency to see if it turns up at any consumer fraud sites.
posted by mediareport at 2:20 PM on May 9, 2010

Best answer: They have demanded a copy of my Social Security card to confirm that I am not the person who opened the account.

This is very bizarre. In my experience, the people in debt collection are the most likely to be able to obtain this information about you already. It does not make any sense to me that they are even offering this to you as a way to dispute the debt. There is a rigorous set of federal rules and a legal means for you to dispute the debt.

I would consider this a potential phishing attempt. Pull your own free credit report using and ensure that there is no debt resembling this connected to your report. I suspect there may not be.

I would hazard ignoring this for now, but if they come back, make a fraud report with the FTC and your state attorney general.
posted by dhartung at 2:21 PM on May 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

That sample letter in dhartung's first link looks excellent; be sure to send it via registered mail. This is a common impasse - they say they can't tell you more about the debt if you say you're not the person they're looking for, and you say you're not giving a stranger your full SS#. But the legal obligation to prove who owes the money is *theirs*, not yours, and they should back off once they realize you know that.
posted by mediareport at 2:37 PM on May 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Is their request legal?
Yes. They can request whatever they want. The question is: Do you have to comply or is there a law that says you must disclose this information? I doubt that.

I would never disclose this information. Tell them that

* you did not open the account
* that you will report fraud (and you should do this)
* that you won't disclose your SSN


By the way, you should sign up here:
And yes, they request your SSN but they are legit.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 2:52 PM on May 9, 2010

If you are a victim of fraud, file a police report. Have the police call them for more information. That should end the problem one way or another.
posted by Houstonian at 8:47 PM on May 9, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks all for your excellent advice. I had discounted the possibility of identity theft at first, but now I think I had best take positive steps to determine if in fact that is what has happened. The thought that this could also be a phishing attempt had not occurred to me.
posted by zainsubani at 4:22 AM on May 11, 2010

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