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The Resource Center Identity Theft & Protection | post

10 Things You Should Know About Your Social Security Number

by Neal O'Farrell on

Intersections’ Consumer Security Adviser Neal O’Farrell shares 10 things you should know about your social security number in today’s post.

1. The Social Security number was never designed to be a secret or a method of identification. The financial industry changed all that, which in many ways has created the national problem of protecting Social Security numbers.

2. It is theoretically possible for thieves to figure out your Social Security number if they already know where and when you were born.

3. Thieves are especially interested in the Social Security numbers of children. The financial and credit systems are unable to tie an age or date of birth to a Social Security number, so there's little to prevent thieves from using these numbers. And because most kids won't actually start using their own Social Security number until adulthood, thieves can get away with abusing stolen numbers for many years.

4. While it's possible to change your Social Security number to minimize the long term impact of identity theft, it's actually very difficult. Not only can it impact your credit history and still connect you to your old Social Security number, the Social Security Administration seems very reluctant to help identity theft victims change their number.

5. On the black market your Social Security number is the hottest commodity, because to thieves it represents the "keys to the kingdom." Yet in spite of that, your Social Security number may be worth less than $20. Why? One suggestion is that prices are being driven down because there are just so many stolen Social Security numbers in circulation.

6. According to MSNBC, in 2007 the IRS estimated that 6 million undocumented workers paid federal taxes and that according to the Social Security Administration, nearly 10 million workers pay taxes each using the wrong SSN, whether deliberately or by mistake.

7. According to a study last year by ID Analytics, an estimated 20 million Americans have multiple Social Security numbers associated with their name, 40 million SSNs have been attached to more than one name or person, and 3 to 4 million SSNs have been used to commit identity fraud.

8. It may not be a crime for someone else to use your Social Security number. In 2010 the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that it was not a crime for someone to use another person's Social Security number as long as they used their own name and not the name of the person to whom that Social Security number belonged.

9. Forget about stealing your Social Security number, how about renting it. Organized crime gangs routinely rent Social Security numbers to illegal immigrants, undocumented workers, and even criminals, who use them for a short time and then dump them for a new number.

10. It's still legal for businesses to sell Personal Information Profiles (or PIPS) that include the Social Security numbers of children. The businesses typically sell them online ostensibly as a way for others to run credit checks, but in reality they're sold to people with bad credit who use the personal information of complete strangers to apply for new credit, then dump the credit profile when they're found out.

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