Your Social Security number was never meant to serve the various functions it is used for today. Over the past 70 years, the Social Security number has become our de facto national ID. The numbers were originally issued in the 1930s, to track income for Social Security benefits. But “functionality creep,” which occurs when an item, process, or procedure ends up serving a purpose it was never intended to perform, soon took effect.
Banks, motor vehicle registries, doctors’ offices, insurance companies, and even utilities often require a Social Security number to do business. Why do they need it? Sometimes it’s because your Social Security number is attached to government records like taxes or criminal records, but most often it’s because the number is attached to your credit file.
The IRS adopted our Social Security numbers as identifiers for our tax files about 50 years or so ago. Around the same time, banks began using Social Security numbers to report interest payments, and so on.
All the while, Social Security numbers were required for all workers, so their Social Security benefits could be paid. Most people were assigned a number when they applied, sometime around the age of 16. This was until the 1980s, when the IRS began issuing Social Security numbers to track children and babies who were claimed as dependents. By the late ‘90s, it was standard for most hospitals to provide Social Security number application to new moms.
A federal law enacted in 1996 determined that Social Security numbers should be used for “any applicant for a professional license, driver’s license, occupational license, recreational license or marriage license.” The number can be used and recorded by creditors, the Department of Motor Vehicles, whenever a cash transaction exceeds $10,000, and in military matters.
All this leads up to the unfortunate realization that your Social Security number is out there in hundreds, or even thousands of places. It is most definitely not private, nor can it be adequately protected. It’s just like a credit card number. You give it out, you hope the person or company is responsible with it, you hope it’s not breached, but all you can do is monitor your identity’s health and, if your identity is ever stolen, take the appropriate steps in response.
Be sure you have active, comprehensive protection for all of your devices. McAfee All Access is the only product that lets individuals and families protect a wide variety of Internet-enabled devices, including PCs, Macs, smartphones, tablets, and netbooks, for one low price.
Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Evangelist for McAfee. See him discuss the use of Social Security numbers as national identification on Fox News. (Disclosures)
ROBERT SICILIANO, CEO of IDTheftSecurity.com is fiercely committed to informing, educating, and empowering Americans so they can be protected from violence and crime in the physical and virtual worlds. His "tell it like it is" style is sought after by major media outlets, executives in the C-Suite of leading corporations, meeting planners, and community leaders to get the straight talk they need to stay safe in a world in which physical and virtual crime is commonplace. Siciliano is accessible, real, professional, and ready to weigh in and comment at a moment's notice on breaking news.
- McAfee Reveals the Top Ten Most Dangerous Places to Leave Your Social Security Number
Universities/Colleges are the Riskiest Research conducted by Robert Siciliano, Identity Theft expert, on behalf of McAfee Cases of identity theft are skyrocketing, and 32% of all ID theft victims had their social security number compromised according to Javelin’s 2010 Identity Fraud Survey Report. In honor of National Identity Protection week, McAfee set out to reveal the most dangerous
- Colorado Supreme Court: Using a Stolen Social Security Number is Not Identity Theft
I feel like my head is going to explode. The Colorado Supreme Court has ruled “that using someone else’s Social Security number is not identity theft as long as you use your own name with it.” The defendant in this particular case had admitted to using a false Social Security number on an application for a car loan,
- Military Members Face Identity Theft Threat
Service men and women face an elevated level of identity theft due to the ubiquitous use of the Social Security number (SSN) both here and abroad. Military personnel use their SSNs for a variety of reasons every day from everything including on various forms, IDs, access to facilities, and in Iraq they have it painted on
- Criminal Hackers Responsible For Most Data Breaches
According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, there were at least 662 data breaches in 2010, which exposed more than 16 million records. Nearly two-thirds of breaches exposed Social Security numbers, and 26% involved credit or debit card data. The ITRC elaborated, “Other than breaches reported by the media and a few progressive state websites, there
- Lawmakers Push To Shield Last 4 Social Security Numbers
Most of us have become accustomed to giving out the last four digits of our Social Security numbers. But this customary request is becoming increasingly problematic, and two Rhode Island lawmakers are responding by pushing legislation to stop businesses from asking for the last four digits of customers’ Social Security numbers. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University
Leave a Comment
You must be logged in to post a comment.