US Gov't: Do Not Carry Your Social Security Number; US Gov't: You Must Carry Your Social Security Number

from the mixed-messages dept

The classic concept of how to force someone to think for themselves rather than mindlessly obey authority is to have two equally powerful authority figures demand that the individual do the completely opposite actions (an example: having two top generals on either side of a low ranking soldier, one demanding he sit down, and the other demanding he stand). Somehow, though, I doubt that's the reasoning behind conflicting messages coming from the US government concerning whether or not you should carry your social security number on you. Jim Harper points us to the fact that the Federal Trade Commission has suggested it's not wise for American citizens to carry their social security number with them in their wallet -- yet other government agencies seem to require it.

Medicare and the Defense Department each issue cards with the person's SSN included. Medicare seems particularly conflicted about the whole thing. It refuses to get rid of cards with SSNs, saying that "it would be too expensive." Instead, in order to deal with the risk of identity theft over this issue, it suggests that you only carry the card with you when you think you might need it: "don't carry it with you unless you know you're going to need it." In other words, always make sure to properly predict that heart attack or stroke ahead of time so you know to carry the card with you. Of course, Medicare also publishes a conflicting pamphlet that reminds people: "Carry your card with you when you are away from home." Mixed messages indeed.

Then, of course, the FTC also recommends that you not write your social security on any check, as that's an easy way for ID thefts to get a hold of it. Of course, on the other side, you have the IRS, who asks taxpayers to write their social security number on the checks you send in. So will the FTC now go after Medicare, the Defense Department and the IRS for helping to cause identity theft? Somehow I doubt it.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Evil Mike, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 8:26am

    Godwin's Law:

    The scenes from Nazi territory during WWII -
    Black Dog - "Sir, your papers?"
    Schmo - "I don't seem to have them on me..."
    Black Dog - "You'll have to come with me for several hours uncomfortable hours of questioning, in which pain will be used as an incentive to answer quickly and truthfully. Luckily for you, however, there will be no torture."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Rekrul, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 8:32am

    Why would the average person need to carry their SSN with them anyway. After all, the government has stated that it's not a national ID number and shouldn't be used as such...

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 9:04am

    Mike,

    Finally, an issue I totally agree with you :)

    Happy 4th!

     

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  4.  
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    OKVol, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 9:13am

    VA also can't afford the conversion

    They still use SSN as their primary index. Anyone want to start a charity for them?

     

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  5.  
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    MEDIAEMPYRE, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 9:19am

    When you get a new job, you are required to show your social security card along with your id. It's a part of the I-9 form and required to determine citizenship status. Of course the illegal aliens have beautiful forgeries of your social security card too.

     

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  6.  
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    SierraNightTide, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 9:29am

    Re: national ID number

    Your SS number is your paper bar code for American life. That SS number lists EVERYTHING you have ever done that requires you to show it. Jobs, utilities, homes, tax records, health, travel ect… The SS number is your bar code for living in American and when you show it, you have have been tagged for govrmt database cataloging.

    The next step? National ID, the step after that? Chips inserted at birth

     

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  7.  
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    Overcast, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 9:46am

    Yeah, you'll get night-sticked if you don't have ID and get pulled over.

     

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  8.  
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    asdf, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 9:49am

    Re: Re: national ID number

    sweet, i want my chip to give me super strength.

     

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  9.  
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    fdad, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 9:50am

    Re: Re: national ID number

    or nanomachines!



    Metal Gear!?!?

     

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  10.  
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    Chief Elf, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 10:02am

    How to avoid SSN on checks to IRS

    How to avoid SSN on checks to IRS:

    Don't send them any checks.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 10:18am

    Re: Re: national ID number

    If the SSN is the barcode for my life, why do they need a National ID?

    They'd be the same thing...


    Remember, never attribute to malice that which can easily be explained by ineptitude.

     

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  12.  
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    Mike_N_Nashville, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 10:30am

    Re: I-9 requirements

    Read the entire list; your social security card is one option from list C, but so is a birth certificate so you are not required to show your social security card for employment.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 10:40am

    Re: How to avoid SSN on checks to IRS

    I use electronic funds transfer

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Forge, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 10:42am

    Re: Re: I-9 requirements

    A current and valid US Passport works for both forms of ID, and lets you bail this sinking country on short notice, should that become the most desirable course of action.

     

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  15.  
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    Overcast, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 10:42am

    sweet, i want my chip to give me super strength.

    The only person getting super strength off that is the super strength the government will have over you at that point.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 11:03am

    I've memorized my SSN, that means I'm always carrying it with me... what does that mean and what laws am I breaking?

     

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  17.  
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    hjkl, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 11:11am

    Re: Re: Re: national ID number

    I want mine to allow me to control and interface with technology.

     

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  18.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 11:20am

    Mixed messages?

    With the Government doing such a good job protecting our SS#s, why do we have to worry about carrying them at all.

     

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  19.  
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    Nick Burns, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 11:24am

    I want chainsaw hands.

     

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  20.  
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    Jason, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 11:26am

    Nice find Mike

    'nuff said.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 12:22pm

    Treasury requires it to get in the building

    If you ever have a meeting at the dept of the treasury they will require you to give them your SSN ahead of time, presumably so they can security check you.
    Even says so on their web site.
    They should know better :-(

     

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  22.  
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    JimH, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 1:45pm

    Yea...

    ...cuz two (or more)US Government organizations having conflicting rules and policies (usually for the wrong reasons) is not all that common..

    /sarcasm off

     

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  23.  
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    Michael, Jul 4th, 2008 @ 4:42am

    I don't think they have any idea

    I don't think the government has any idea whether or not you should carry it with you. I personally don't carry it with me unless I know I'm going to need it for something, although I don't know why you would ever really know it if you have it memorized.

     

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  24.  
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    Just Me, Jul 4th, 2008 @ 5:09am

    Memory

    I have me SIN memorized as well (Canadian equivalent of your SS).
    My only question to those saying they don't carry it is; what if you are unable to give it?
    If you need it for medical reasons you may not be conscious when you get to Emerg.

    I have a Health Card and provincial ID, neither of which have my SIN printed on them.

    Though the ID's use a Master # that probably equates to the same thing.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    JB, Jul 4th, 2008 @ 7:22am

    DoD Is taking steps.

    My latest military ID is sans a social security number printed on it. See this link: http://www.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123093078
    Our SSAN is our primary means of identification. I'm still not happy about that. The sheer volume of paperwork generated by even lowest ranking soldier/sailor/airman/Marine means that my SSAN is seen, transcribed, submitted and written down by literally dozens of people. My favorite is the Privacy Act Statement on the travel voucher. (Paraphrasing) "Submitting your SSAN is voluntary; however you will not get paid without including it."

     

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  26.  
    icon
    Lisa Westveld (profile), Jul 7th, 2008 @ 4:57am

    If I were that low-ranking footsoldier then I'd just shoot both Generals and wait until some sane General arrives.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Lisa Van Houten, Jul 7th, 2008 @ 7:07pm

    Gov't IDT Practical Advice

    First, one should NEVER CARRY their SSN card with them. So what about Medicare/Medicaid cards? An individual only needs it the first time they see a doctor. Typically it is scanned into their personal file. Therefore the individual can copy and delete the first 5 digits of the card and use it on subsequent visits. I recommend a second picture ID for verification, which can easily be obtained by your DMV. One does not have to drive to get a picture ID.

    Second, the US government has absolutely no plans to change its current identification method. As Mr. Masnick correctly pointed out, "It's too expensive." More importantly, what would they change it to? (Re: Anonymous Coward)

    Third, Identity Theft cannot be prevented. You as an individual can only minimize your potential for becoming a victim. So what does your identity theft prevention plan consist of? Monitoring? Resolution? RESTORATION?

    Fourth, when (not if) you start looking at identity theft prevention services I hope you will contact me for an intelligent conversation on the subject.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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