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The Resource Center Identity Theft & Protection The Resource Center | article

“Functionality Creep” Explains Why Your SSN Is Everywhere

Functionality creep explains why, a variety of organizations and institutions may request proof of Social Security for enrollment, approval and authorization. You’ve had your Social Security card your whole life. You’ve used it every time you’ve gotten on the payroll at a new job, among other common and mundane tasks that require verification of your identity. On the hierarchy of valuable information for identity thieves, Social Security information ranks high because so much of your personal financial information is accessible with those nine digits.

In his book, Ninety-Nine Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity was Stolen, Robert Siciliano explains how Social Security Numbers have evolved past their original intentions.

“Over the past 70 years, the Social Security Number has become our de facto national identifier,” he writes. “The numbers were first 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.”

Functionality creep explains why today, a variety of organizations and institutions may request proof of Social Security for enrollment, approval and authorization. Social Security cards are at the center of these needs, as they authenticate the information you claim on a form or application. Here are some ways to protect your identity when your SSN is involved:

  • Look for alternatives. If the Social Security information field is market optional, don’t submit your information. In today’s identity theft climate, some institutions may provide alternative verification channels that don’t require you to share your SSN. If that’s the case, use them. However, don’t be afraid to challenge a doctor’s office or bank if you’re not comfortable providing Social Security information.
  • Resist questionable requests. Never provide your SSN over the phone, particularly when you don’t know the caller or the organization he or she claims to represent.
  • Don’t use your SSN as a security answer. For many encrypted accounts, you may be asked to provide your SSN to authorize access. If your security questions and answers are produced voluntarily, avoid using your number as a key. Stick to the name of your first pet or the first model of car you ever drove.
  • Monitor all copies of your card. Some offices may have a system by which they file photocopies of your Social Security information for easy access. This can also give thieves inside the organization easy entry to your personal data. These requests can be refused.
  • Most of all, don’t carry your card in a wallet or purse. Keep your social security card in a safe, locked away from prying hands of thieves. Know where it is at all times and never carry it around on your person.

Your Social Security card is a cornerstone of your identity and should be treated as such. Following these tips can help reduce vulnerabilities to ID theft . For additional protection, be sure to invest in a credit monitoring service, which can notify you of certain activities that may indicate fraud. A credit monitoring system like Identity Guard doesn’t just check your credit reports, but also monitors your personal information like your Social Security Number or public records with your name on them. This way you can stay alert and aware.