Expert Q&A

Wrong account info doesn’t absolve debt responsibility


If your card account lists an incorrect Social Security number as yours, that doesn’t give you a free pass on paying any debt you’ve racked up

The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date; however, some of our partner offers may have expired. Please review our list of best credit cards, or use our CardMatch™ tool to find cards matched to your needs.


Dear To Her Credit,
If the credit card company has my Social Security number wrong, and I put it correct on the application, am I still liable for any debt on the card?   — Candra


Dear Candra,
If only it were true! Unfortunately, a typo on your credit card account does not give you a pass on paying your bills.

Because so much of our financial lives are tracked by our Social Security numbers, it’s easy to think that’s all that really matters. Some might even think it’s their lucky day if the Social Security number associated with their card is incorrect. There’s more to you and your identity than just your Social Security number, however. Even when the credit card company errs and has your Social Security number wrong, I believe you still owe the balance.

You applied for credit, using your name, correct Social Security number, address, phone number and signature. You used the card to buy things. Every time you used the card, you were promising to pay the balance, plus any interest. By what logic should you not be liable for the balance? If you were to not be liable, who should be — the bank that paid for your purchases? The person whose Social Security number matches your credit card number? There’s only one person who benefitted from the credit and who promised to pay it back, and that’s you.

It’s interesting that you even found out your Social Security number was wrong. A person could use a card for years, make payments faithfully, and never know the number was incorrect. Typically, cardholders discover an erroneous number when accounts don’t show up on their credit reports, or if the account is delinquent and the bank is taking some kind of action.

Another way you could have discovered the mistake is by seeing an “alternate Social Security number” on your credit report. The credit bureaus keep track of Social Security numbers used to report your information that are different from the one used for your file. This information is provided as a service to you, because different Social Security numbers can be an indication of mistakes or identity theft. According to Experian, if it shows a Social Security number that is no longer associated with any of your accounts, you can ask them to delete it from your report.

If your credit card is in good standing, and it’s not showing up on your credit report, the wrong Social Security number could prevent you from benefitting from your account history and other positive information on your credit score. It’s the worst of both worlds — you still owe the balance, but your credit score doesn’t reflect your good payment history.

The obvious solution to this problem is to notify the credit card company of the error so it can fix it.

You should do this as soon as possible. A mistake is a mistake. The incorrect Social Security number wasn’t your fault, but it’s not a get-out-of-debt card, either. Now that you know the number is wrong, it’s your responsibility to make sure it’s made right, and to pay your credit card balance as you promised to do.

See related:5 mistakes people make when disputing credit report errors


Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

What’s up next?

In Expert Q&A

Pros and cons of charging automatic payments to a credit card

Charging automatic payments on a credit card can be beneficial for busy consumers, but it also has its faults. Here are the pros and cons to think about.

See more stories
Credit Card Rate Report
Cash Back

Questions or comments?

Contact us

Editorial corrections policies

Learn more