Family might find me using my SSN
September 16, 2012 4:35 AM   Subscribe

I tried to find similar threads on google but there doesn't seem to be any. Is there a way to make my SSN information private?

I am afraid of being tracked down through my SSN. Is there a way to make my social security information private, or only to be looked at with my permission? I tried to look this up but wasn't able to. I am afraid that my family will look up my SSN, see where I work, and then come in during my work and try to make me lose my job.

I don't want to be traceable in general. I use a nickname (that my family doesn't know about) for my facebook account, no one knows my new friends (who know me by my nickname), I don't post any photos or my name online.

I also have my own job, so I should file for taxes, right? I support myself, next April will be my first time filing for taxes, but I am confused. I have a feeling my parents are still going to try to put me as a dependent on their taxes, even if I tell them not to.

posted by kopi to Law & Government (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If you fully support yourself, you do file your own taxes. No need to fight with your parents about it; just file and let the IRS sort it out if they decide to file, too.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:02 AM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have a feeling my parents are still going to try to put me as a dependent on their taxes, even if I tell them not to.

I'm assuming you got an SSN as a child, so they probably already know what it is.

If they try to claim you as a dependent, here's what will happen: They'll put you down on the "dependent" part of the form. Meanwhile, you'll file your taxes as "not a dependent." When the IRS processes the tax forms, they'll note the discrepancy and contact each of you (separately) to sort out what's going on. At that time, the IRS will give you the chance to say "I'm not a dependent" and let you provide proof of that, and your parents will also need to prove that you are their dependent. (FYI: This happens pretty frequently, so the IRS has a regular procedure to sort it out.) Absent some evidence that from your parents that you are actually their dependent (ie: you're on their insurance, they're paying for your school, evidence that you lived with them for most of the year, etc.) they won't be able to do it.
posted by anastasiav at 5:08 AM on September 16, 2012 [6 favorites]

About your family looking up your SSN and using it to trace you to a job: not gonna happen. The only listing of social security numbers online is the SSN Death Index, which is a listing of all DEAD people and their SSN, and is therefore not something you, a presumably live person, have got to worry about!

Since you are self-supporting, yes indeedy you have to file your tax return with the IRS; the easiest way to make sure your parents will (at the very least) get their own tax return questioned for claiming you as a dependant, is to file YOUR OWN tax return at the very first possible moment --- there's no need to wait until the April 15th deadline: file your tax return the first week of January if you can. Then when your parents later on submit a return with your SSN as their dependant? The IRS computers will kick it out for the duplicated SSN ('hey look, someone has already filed for this SSN!'); with any luck, your parents might even get audited.... Either way, audit or not for them, you will not be in any trouble, nor will the IRS release any of YOUR info (address, income, etc.) to your family.
posted by easily confused at 5:19 AM on September 16, 2012

Googling 'tracing someone via social security' produces a lot of hits, but what the DIY results (not the people search services) are talking about is that Social Security will forward a letter if you convince them that it's important. However, they won't give out your address.
posted by hoyland at 5:24 AM on September 16, 2012

Okay, so you're not crazy and this is actually possible, where 'this' isn't quite what you're imagining. You probably can't do much about it, though. Here is a sample of what one of those paid searches will produce (though for that particular company anyway, they'd first have to pay a private investigator to get access). Here is a page explaining how that data is produced (and thus, by extension, how you could attempt to limit it). What does not appear to be available is where you work.

Realistically, I'm not sure there's anything you can do about it, unless you've never given a business other than your employer your social security number. Any time a company asks for your SSN, you can press them whether they really need it (they're likely trying to do a credit check, but should be able to do it without the SSN). You're entitled to refuse to give it to them, however they're also entitled to refuse to do business with you if you don't. However, you're likely traceable no matter what you do, assuming your family wants to find you badly enough that they're willing to pay.
posted by hoyland at 5:42 AM on September 16, 2012

Beware if your employer contracts employment and income verification through The Work Number, I believe it's an $18 dollar fee to search by your SSN and obtain a list of your current and past employers.. somebody who really knows what they're doing might know how to get the info for free through their phone system.
posted by wats at 6:46 AM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you don't want to be traceable in general, it would be better if, instead of using a nickname on Facebook, you didn't use Facebook at all.

Yeah, it's a drag, and people might think you're weird, but privacy requires trade-offs.
posted by box at 6:49 AM on September 16, 2012

This doesn't completely resolve your issue, but might be worth doing. From the Social Security Administration's website, "Block Electronic Access".
posted by Houstonian at 6:56 AM on September 16, 2012

If you have accounts (say, the electric bill) in your name and they have your SSN or the last four digits of it, you might also call them and have them replace that with another identifying piece of information.

Contact the three credit reporting agencies (they use your SSN) and put a freeze on your account -- this way, they have to call you before releasing your credit (and address) information to anyone.

You can also protect your address via an "address confidentiality program". Search for that term plus the name of your state to find the website.

Your bank also has your SSN. When you go through the address confidentiality program, they can help you with your bank, so that the bank will take an alternate address instead of your home/work address.
posted by Houstonian at 7:06 AM on September 16, 2012 [5 favorites]

I looked back at your question history (to confirm my advice was going in the right direction): You need to call a domestic abuse hotline and get connected to an organization in your area that helps victims of abuse. Among the things they can help you do is adequately hide and redirect your identity, help you with the IRS (which has programs to help keep abused people's information hidden from their abusers even when the abuser might otherwise have a right to access it), and help you with things like restraining orders. These are pretty routine things for advocates in those organizations to help with. Even if the one you call only helps, say, wives leaving abusive husbands, they should have resources to connect you with another organization or with local attorneys with experience in legally and adequately hiding your identity from people who are threatening to you.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:24 AM on September 16, 2012 [6 favorites]

I don't think you qualify from what you've described here, but there may be further details which allow you to request a change of SSN:
posted by jpeacock at 9:08 AM on September 16, 2012

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