Social Security Mixup

Dear Dr. Per Cap: 

While trying to file my taxes online last month, my return was rejected by the IRS with an automated email that read “Date of birth does not match name on file.”  It instructed me to contact the social security administration but I can’t get a hold of anyone there by phone.  What should I do?


I Know My Birthday

Dear I Know My Birthday:

My first thought is that someone might have stolen your identity and used it to apply for either a social security number or benefits.  Pull your credit report immediately at and review it closely for any new accounts you didn’t authorize, a new personal address, or any other suspicious activity.

Another potential problem is an employer who incorrectly listed your social security number on a tax form.  An error like this could result in a discrepancy in the IRS database triggering the email message you received.  So double check any W2’s or other earnings statements you received in January to make sure your social security number and other personal information are listed correctly.

Unfortunately, it can be like pulling teeth to reach a real person with many automated telephone help lines these days so your best bet might be to visit a social security office in person.  Offices are located in all major U.S. cities and many smaller ones as well.  Click here to find one near you and depending on where you live – hopefully, you won’t need to drive too far.

When you go, bring a government issued ID along with your birth certificate because you might need to apply for a new social security card.

If you haven’t done so already, you’ll also want to apply for a six month extension to file your federal and state tax returns.  This can be done for free using the IRS Free File Program.  Please note however, that if you expect to owe taxes you’ll want to send an estimated payment for that amount as soon as possible.  If you wait to pay until you’re finally able to file, you’ll owe interest. 

I realize issues like this are a serious pain in the tail.  Making matters worse is that you’re probably not the one at fault, but you are the one who has to jump through the hurdles.  Hope this all gets squared away quickly.