The Social Security Administration (“SSA”) never intended for our Social Security number to become our de facto identification number, but that is what it has become since the SSA first started issuing them in 1935. Some of us have them on our driver’s licenses, we need them when we start jobs, and we use them when we apply for credit. Given the importance that our Social Security numbers have today, most of us go through great pains to protect them. The SSA, on the other hand, appears less concerned.
Investigative journalists discovered that the SSA inadvertently releases 14,000 Social Security numbers, names and dates of birth every year. Worse yet, they do not even inform those Americans whose information it releases.
The SSA leaks the information when it publishes its Death Master File, which tracks Americans who die each year. Sometimes SSA staff enters this information incorrectly, which results in the release of data pertaining to someone who is living. Once this information is in the Death Master File, anyone can purchase it. This makes living Americans who end up on the list accidentally prime targets for identity theft. Armed with Social Security numbers, names, and birth dates, identity thieves can take full advantage of this information to track down additional personal details and apply for bank accounts or credit cards.
Some people do eventually come to find out about the mistake. Unfortunately for them, it comes about the hard way when they try to access bank accounts only to find them frozen; or when employers refuse them job interviews, when banks deny credit card applications, or when they are unable to lease an apartment or receive a mortgage.
What tactics do you employ for safeguarding your Social Security number to prevent identity theft?
Troutman & Troutman, P.C. – Tulsa Social Security disability attorneys