What Do You Do When 80 Other People Are Using Your Social Security Number?

from the good-luck dept

With so many data leaks these days, whatever little belief you had that your social security number was private should now be completely shattered. It’s a joke that anyone still uses SSNs for any form of identification — and yet it’s still considered the standard. Perhaps a few more cases like the following one will help rectify that. A woman who had not worked in a few years was surprised recently to receive a note from the IRS about taxes she owed. As she tried to get to the bottom of the situation, she discovered that her social security number was being used by at least 80 individuals around the country to help them get jobs. What happened after that demonstrates just how screwed up the system is. While she continued to run into various problems due to others using her SSN (including being held at customs because someone using her SSN was wanted for a felony and having trouble getting a new job), the IRS basically told her that she was going to face the same set of problems every year, and there was basically nothing she could do about it (other than get a new SSN, which she eventually did). In the meantime, can someone explain why Social Security Numbers are still being used for identification at all?

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Comments on “What Do You Do When 80 Other People Are Using Your Social Security Number?”

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Curtis Breuker says:

ok then...

Sure there are problems with people misusing soscial security numbers but that doesn’t mean that using soscial security numbers are bad. What else to you expect businesses to use for a unique identifier for a person??? I think the real problem is with how easy it is use a SSN. Credit card companies make it too easy for people to sign up, they dont really care if they lose some money here and there they make a killing regardless. The other part of the problem is employers should have to check a central database to verify that person is legit, and if they hire someone who isn’t, fine them a huge amount.

joe says:

More Deception

The Social Security number was originally to be for “Social Security purposes only” it used to say so on the card. Then the IRS decided it helped collect taxes. Our law makers had to decide between personal privacy and money & we lost.

There’s no such thing as identity theft, its really bank fraud that banks and our government doesn’t wont to pay for so they blame it on you.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: chip

Yes but just because it works on dogs does not mean it will be equally effective in humans. I don’t believe many people would feel the benefit of stealing a pet-microchip device would be worth the risk … but IF having a specific microchip would give you access to the personal wealth of – say Bill Gates – and free reign over them for even an hour … and then all you had to do was dispose of the chip … and you got away with it. Hmmmmm sounds like there might be some bugs to work out.

Something I Know + Something I Have + Something I Am != Complete & Absolute Security . . . but it is pretty good all things considered.

mthorn says:

Re: Re: chip

It’s like hand-cuffing an important breifcase to your arm, just to get your hand cut off so the theif can get it. I’d imagine that high profile people with identity chips embeded would just be killed for their chip. Hell, if banks relied on it as the only means of identification, a common mugger would kill you to get the chip to earn a quick $50 from the ATM.

Implanting anything that can be removed is hazardous to your health for these reasons, not and biological or government spy reasons.

There are plenty of security devices like fingerprint and retina scans that require the user to have a pulse or other life signs to work.

The problem with DNA identification is that you shed lots of it every day. DNA is in your hair, skin, blood, etc. Identity thefy would be as easy as picking up one of the millions of hairs lying on a common city street.

useful commentor says:

Social Security Numbers

One way to avoid SSN theft is to quit giving to everyone just because they ask for it. You don’t have to give your social security number to anyone but the SSA, The IRS, and you bank. Anyone else who asks for it can just as easily assign a different number. The law reuires that anyone whos asks for you SSN is required to show you a copy of the law that entitles them to collect it. You want to quit being victimized, QUIT BEING A CHUMP.

Gary says:

Re: Re: Social Security Numbers

You have to provide your SSN when you accept a job, so they can calculate the proper tax witholding.

You don’t have to provide an SSN on a job application. Leave it blank. If they ask, respond, “I’ll provide it if you offer me a job and I accept it.”

Doctor’s offices ask for it routinely. I leave it blank. They say they “need” it. I tell them they don’t. They have my medical insurance number.

You have to be vigilant. Question the “need” for giving someone your SSN!

easier said than done. says:

Re: Social Security Numbers

“One way to avoid SSN theft is to quit giving to everyone just because they ask for it.”

Right… Try to get student loans or apply to go to college without it. Maybe they don’t legally have the right to force you to supply it, but its hard enough to get the paperwork processed in time if you do everything the way they want… Try to be different and you might wait an extra year to go to the university of choice.

SPR (profile) says:

SSN's or what?

It’s clear that a national drivers license/identity card is the most acceptable and logical solution. But if we do that will the feds and everyone else take steps to protect that. If they don’t then there is no point. The bio-chip is not an acceptable solution to a vast majority of people, and I don’t give a damn what other countries do, just as I couldn’t care less how much Europe is paying for gas and don’t accept high prices just because they were stupid enough to do so.

JB says:

ok - dont give it out

“You don’t have to give your social security number to anyone but the SSA, The IRS, and you bank.”

Unless you want a drivers license in the state of Ohio, or a Commercial Drivers license in any state in the US. I know in Ohio you can not get a drivers license, car title, or any other business done at the BMV without your SS#. Another issue is when I was applying for my Commercial Drivers License in Washington state I had to show them the actuall SS card, there was a federal requirement that forced this.

Make it painful says:

Re: implants

Yep, I agree. But, I want it to be painful. Stupidity should be painful. Especially for those that are making the decisions where our identity is no longer private.

implantee: What’s with the vice and drill?

Doctor: Don’t worry, I won’t feel a thing! It will be over in a few minutes, unless we have to perform the task again.

Ahab says:

Meh. Tis the future.

We will be serialised. There’s no stopping that, and in a digital age, maybe it’s not such a bad thing. The general consensus is that giving out an ssn to anyone but your bank, Social Security, and the occasional department/beureau of motor vehicles is folly. So why not a new system? A new serial number for a new age, one that is only used for general identification, that carries much less power in terms of personal security; a serial number that should only be used on things of little importance where a computer needs an accurate identification and names and photos are out of the question, like signing up for credit cards. When any fraud is found out, the old number can be deactivated and a new one instated.

Even I can see the security flaws in my idea, so please don’t flame me, I’m just throwing ideas out there. Americans have plenty of numbers already, so one more won’t hurt.

Mike says:


The bottom line is that no matter what is done to “solve” the problem, someone will find a way around it. Not to mention that most people really don’t want the problem solved if it causes them and inconvenience.

Credit cards are a good example, to me it makes sense that in addition to a signature (which no one checks) or a picture on the card (that no one looks at) require a pin number to be entered at the point of sale. Why aren’t we doing this? Simple; consumers don’t want it. Credit card companies have looked into this, but they found that most people don’t want to put up with the “hassle” of securing their credit cards with one extra step!

Botom line: people still think it won’t happen to them, so until it happens to a lot more causing some kind of outcry, nothing will be done.

RobZ says:

Credit fraud and SSN.

SSN is the number one item fueling credit card fraud.

All someone needs is your name, mother’s madien name and your SSN…sometimes even less than that.

Once they have that, they can apply for the card to any address they want, so you willl never know about it until you get a phone call a few months later about a maxed out credit card with a $15,000 limit in your name. By the way, when they apply for the new credit card in your name with a different address, it automatically changes your address to the new address on your credit report. How screwed up is that?

They way people get away with this is by having the address on the credit card out of state. When you report your identity stolen, the police will not go after them if it is out of state. It is ultimately up to the credit card company to go after them if enough money is stolen.

Preventative measures: Do not give out your SSN at any time unless you feel you are in a safe environment such as applying for a new job, opening bank accounts, etc.

Do not fill out forms for credit cards at sporting events, online websites or any other unsecure situations where it has to go through 3rd or 4th hand to get to the credit card. By then, a handful or more people will have seen your information and could have copied it down.

One of the top ways college students are fraud victims is because the schools use the student’s SSN as their ID number. The student can request the school to issue them a seperate number to prevent this, but only on request.

SSN’s are plain dangerous, because all it takes is 9 matching numbers to ruin a person’s life.

Republican Gun (user link) says:

Have a Sh|tty FICO score.

I think the best way not to have your identity stolen is to have a crappy FICO score. With a below par FICO score you can only get secured loans instead of all the unsecured loans that CC companies are pushing. I for one, could care less if some fool charged up some unsecured loans in my name. All you have to do is request a signature on a loan application that you never signed to get out of it.

The real problem is like the situation above where the IRS is coming after you for taxes. That seems to be nightmare, being the IRS and everything.

kilroy says:

Re: Have a Sh|tty FICO score.

Now that is just silly. If a person is looking to use a SSN (SIN# in Canada) they do not actually care if it has an poor FICO score attached to it. They are likely to view that SSN in a similar fashion to toilet-paper. They need it, they use it, and when it has served its purpose they leave it behind and reach for the next …

If a person is willing to commit an offence they are not likely to say “Oh I have a fraudlent SSN already … I made a bad choice but I am stuck with this one now.” These people are just as likely to commit a second offence if it suits their need. Integrity is not a character trait that they are likely to display.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Have a Sh|tty FICO score.

haha, yes. Similarly, I have always claimed that being dirt a$$ poor was my best defense against mugging. So far I’ve been mugged twice, and both times the assailant got absolutely nothing – I had reached the limit on my credit cards and spent my last dollar. 🙂

Really though, do identity thieves really spend the time finding out your FICO score? I wouldn’t think so… so even if you could get out of the fraudulent loans easier, you’d still have to deal with it, and just from dealing with my bank on a regular basis I’m assuming it would be a huge pain in the ass. Not to mention uh, having bad credit isn’t a grand ole time either.

Xodar says:

Re: Re: SSN

The Social Security Number and System is a voluntary system. Most don’t know that, as virtually everyone has one, and they are generally given at Birth now in the hostpital.

But there are a few Americans without a SSN.

I do not have a SSN, and have never had one. My reasons are due to my Religious beliefs (Mark of the Beast type stuff).

Not having a SSN makes life quite difficult, but not impossible. You do not need a SSN to get a job, you just need to be an American (Passport shall prove that). You do not need a SSN to get a Passport (one of the only places that realize not everyone has one). You do not need to have a SSN to pay taxes or get your Tax refunds back (I pay my taxes every year and always get any refund owed).

You do need a SSN to get any benefits such as unemployment, Welfare, or Social Security. While I pay my Social Security tax and unemployment insurance, this money goes poof and is wasted for me, as I shall not get any benefits from the systesms.

Opening a Bank account, going to college, getting a Library Card, Opening a Brokerage Account, Credit Cards, Apartment renting, and everything else is more difficult, but not impossible.

I have my Bank account at Washington Mutual. I got my lines of credit. I went to college and recieved Financial aid. I have credit cards and a Charles Schawb account for investing. But getting these things can take work. I have worked for larger corporations such as Symantec and other busineses. Any income you make is subjected to Backup Withholding and you need to wait till next years refund to get any overpayment.

Non-skilled jobs typically wouldn’t hire me (no Burger King when I was young) but places in California would. After I went to college and got skilled as a programmer getting a job was not difficult, although you do need to convince payroll and stuff to let you in. Mainly the Payroll program (ADP)s won’t take all 0’s as an identifier.

Moving out of the country, might have made things easier for me, but what I found is that most countries have a Social Security Number equivalent, often even more pervasive than ours.

I have not sued anyone yet, but I likely should have over my life as difficulties are often encountered.

Not everyone has a SSN. Just nearly everyone, so it is expected.

Eileen says:


As someone who lives in Texas, that is a load of crap. I don’t know the exact situation, but there is NO tax on most (read: non-prepared) groceries, and the tax on things I buy from, say, Target, is definitely 8.25% As I understand it, you can tax hotels, gambling, and a whole ton of other things to make up for the income tax, but in Texas at least, it’s not made up from taxing basic goods.

jeep says:

Yes it is shame we dont live in a perfect world where no one touches something that belongs to someone else…if we did i alot of people would be useless.

police,homeland security,ssa.nsa,etc…..I have a subscribtion by accident to E-week which anyone can get free. For the last 6 mos its all about RFID.the good parts of course. now on the other hand by googling RFID you will see that Wal-Mart and other retailers are using this now to follow us..yes track us. in baby formula bottles.cds,all pc parts,sewn in to your favorite blue jeans,placed in between the cardboard packaging,inside of the plastic of some bottles…just hold up something you buy from any store to the light”if it is translucent that is” and look for the little strip,or square puzzle piece looking thingy.if you use speed pass or bonus cards, to buy gas or food. you had to fill out a form so they know where you shop,what you watch on directv,cable,which cell phone you own. which can be tracked by gps nowadays. also where you eat ,remember those jeans you wear and that formula you have in the baby bag are being watched. so they know you are on welfare,or rich and either you can afford or not,you cant deny it they are watching……. so can the RFID chips.. police are trying to perfect a new device that can read these “implanted devices” in new cars which have lojack and “onstar” and stuff you have on you with imbedded devices at 60 mph..which means they can find anyone anywhere in your car,elevator,passing by on the side walk,etc….

they are tapping our phones now our souls and very existence

welcome to the jungle.

Dam says:

Re: Re:

For the last 6 mos its all about RFID.the good parts of course. now on the other hand by googling RFID you will see that Wal-Mart and other retailers are using this now to follow us..yes track us. in baby formula bottles.cds,all pc parts,sewn in to your favorite blue jeans,placed in between the cardboard packaging,inside of the plastic of some bottles…just hold up something you buy from any store to the light”if it is translucent that is” and look for the little strip,or square puzzle piece looking thingy.if you use speed pass or bonus cards, to buy gas or food. you had to fill out a form so they know where you shop,what you watch on directv,cable,which cell phone you own. which can be tracked by gps nowadays. also where you eat ,remember those jeans you wear and that formula you have in the baby bag are being watched. so they know you are on welfare,or rich and either you can afford or not,you cant deny it they are watching……. so can the RFID chips.

And now the moonbat contingent speaks…..

Anonymous Coward says:

I was recently notified that my bank had a computer stolen with my details on it. They offered me a year of free credit monitoring. Since I signed up for it, I’m a lot happier than I was.

Granted, there’s nothing stopping anyone from stealing my identity and abusing it, but at least now I will be notified as soon as it happens. I think that people in this country need to take more responsibility for their own affairs, and stop waiting for someone else to solve their problems. Yes, the system is broken, but there is something that people can do about it.

Sure, I feel guilty that it took a bank’s letter for me to actually take action myself, but I have, and I’m glad I did. I will definitely renew my subscription once the year is up. Take charge, folks, and don’t let yourself become a victim, because prevention is better than cure…

Bill says:

Social Security Numbers

I just turned 62 and applied for my monthly check. In the course of application I had to dig deep into my records and pull out my SS Card. 44 years ago I received my SS Card at 18. It was attached to a dated information card with 1950 styled cartoon characters explaining one thing or another. The first rule was the PROHIBITION in the use of your “Personal” SS Number for IDENTIFICATION of you as an individual. What happen US Government and eveyone else who requires this number for credit reports, etc.? Yes I know it is retorical – Just venting off steam. Oh I was informed by the Veterans Dept that I was among the 28 million who’s identity was lost in a stolen lap top. What happened to the employee who took the information home when he knew it was illegal? As a governent employee he must have been promoted!

SPR (profile) says:

Re: "by theresa"

A receiver for this could be tuned and adjusted to read an RFID tag from a few hundred meters rather than just “a few meters”. It is just a matter of sensitivity. With receivers stationed thruout the area or thruout the country and the data fed into a universal database (these already exist) that only the subscribers (businesses and government) have access to they really can track our every move. But then, they certainly would not lie to us about being able to track us, would they? If you believe that I would like to talk to you about selling a big orange bridge in California.

Andrew Strasser says:

This happened to my step-dad.

It actually caused a bit of a snafu when he went to get his hazmat hauling liscense from the Homeland Security dept. Someone named Tudulo Vargas was using his information in Ft. Wayne, IN. They gave all information to the mexican policeman who was dispatched to take care of the issue including the restaurant name and it’s hours of busness that he was there. Nothing was done about the guy, though he did wind up getting his hazmat certification from homeland security.

RareButSeriousSideEffects says:

Privacy + Positive Identification

So in a post-9/11 USA, it seems we have two conflicting goals. We need to be able to prove whether someone is who they say they are & identify people who are on US soil legitimately vs. illegitimately, but we also need to enable individuals to maintain privacy & anonymity, and have absolute control over the use of their personally identifiable information.

The solution of using SSNs for positive identification is obviously solving neither problem.

Replacing SSNs with a set of digital signatures for each individual could go a long way towards improving the situation.

For starters, say folks would have one each Identification, Permission & Encryption. Want credit? Fine, just fill out this application & sign the document with your ID signature. A federal database could verify that the signer was or wasn’t who he/she claimed to be, but could not look up the signature of any signer nor directly look up the individual associated with any particular signature. Also, at any time individuals could view a log of every identity-verification request concerning him- or herself.

More secure transactions involving higher-value information would only be performed in encrypted form: the info being transmitted would be pk encrypted with the recipient’s public encryption key, and the encrypted package signed with the senders ID key.

The most sensitive information would be encrypted again on a line-item by line-item basis with a Permission key hashed against the line item ID *and* recipient’s public key. This would require an extra step of the recipient for each item of information they wanted to view: To get the info into a form that was directly decryptable with their own private key, they would need to submit a permission request to the information owner to view that line item. To grant permission, the info owner would divulge the hash for that line item, which would then allow the recipient (and only the recipient) to generate the corresponding decryption key.

The real security of such a system, though, would require two additional safeguards:

1) We’d need laws ensuring that no citizen could be held responsible for any financial obligations that were not processed through such a system.

2) The platform would need to be completely open-source & transparent, managed & monitored by a directly-elected non-profit foundation. It could be assisted & funded by the US government, but must remain outside the direct control of elected officials or other government agencies. Otherwise, too much incentive exists for politicians to muck with things for their own benefit, e.g. concealing security holes arising from their decisions, etc.

mthorn says:

Re: Privacy + Positive Identification

Hm, using public and private keys for identification might work. CC companies send you some hash, you encrypt it with your private key and send the public key and they test it against a central database.

However this would have to be completely transparent to the user.

The other advantage is the password you can put on your key. So no one can read your private key without your password/PIN.

James says:

Hell After The SSN Change

Let’s not forget how screwed up the system is for people after they have changed their SSN. They have to contact the credit unions and other companies that controll the databases and ask them to transfer the info over, and those companies usualy just ignore the people, leaving the people with no credit background. Employers and banks usualy don’t trust people with no credit or credit history.

Ninja12 says:

The Ever deadly SSN#

It does not matter what anyone says about the SSN#, it works for what it was intended. As time changes the way that the Farmer Uncle Sam counts his cattle (us), may change but we are still going to be counted.

We are cattle, and we have allowed this to happen because every American wants that nice little successful life without any interruptions. I want my damn cable TV and I deserve it! I do not want my SSN# stolen because its mine! Blah, blah, blah… If I have found one thing as a member of this herd, there is a never-ending stream of complaining and self-righteousness among my fellow cattle. Accept your fate is short lives so enjoy what you have left…too many of us do not get that chance! So, you get inconvenienced a little or a lot! Deal with it and take ownership and then move on!

You could be in a different country where they slaughter their cattle for complaining about things like this, be thankful that you have a life that 90% of the world does not have, and would love to have…

Bunch of babies….

MS says:

Companies have become too dependend on using SS numbers. I worked for one where they plastered them on your ID card, that was quickly resolved after everyone in the office complained and the cards were destroyed. It amazes me that most people do not realize that you do not have to give your SS number on a application until you are actually going to be interviewed or hired. The number is being abused the number is no longer a confidential number of your individuality but has become standard as a cheap way for companies to identify you.

BSB says:

I just had a huge blow up with my Mortgage company last night because they demanded I use the last four numbers of my SS as a form of Identification. I refused and explained to them the original purpose of SS#. I am going to force them to use something other then this to identify me if I have to call them and bother them everyday until they do.

Kelly says:

Momma's name

Your mother’s maiden name is not necessary either. I don’t bother and even tell the clueless bank clerk that I have made up a “name”. Hint – make it one word; ie. Van Dam wasn’t working on most computer systems as I had to guess what they did to the space. I did make sure my spouse knew the “security” word.

SSN upon employment applications has a purpose — to check out your credit rating. It says a lot about you – or so the HR departments believe. They used to just make sure you parked in the special visitor spot and sent someone out to check out how messy – or not – you car was during your interview.

Stand up for your selves people! I have survived refusing the hospital and the insurance company the right to have my SSN or my spouse’s. Doctors ask only because that might help get them paid faster. But I really put up a stink when the soccer team wanted my kids’ number to verify that the right juvenile was on the field. I chewed them up and down over that one and told them to make up a fake number. Then they offered me the security job!

Jeff – I’m studying British history – good one about America being the homosexual second-cousin. FYI I was in Mexico and just getting hit on all the time. I picked up an “American” magazine for the flight home. Same mag as next to the check out in the grocery store gets published with nude photos of the models-outside the borders. So that is the image they have of us – sex crazed.

Bander says:

Eliminate the Number by Eliminating the Problem

Let’s see…

When our Founding Fathers created the constitution, I do not recall there ever being a mention of social security, or welfare (except in the general welfare) of any kind at all.

Many good points in this thread about SSN’s & ID theft. Many foolish ones too.

The problem is that the gov’ment decided that they would be benevolent with our hard earned tax payer dollars. Dollars that shouldn’t have been stolen from us by the unratified 16th amendment in the first place. But we stood by and did nothing.

The point is that if social security did not exist in the first place, there would be no need for numbers.

If we all just took care of each other, instead of putting up with our filthy, obese and criminal government, we would be much better off.

Have you ever tried to get a new-born baby out of the hospital these days without a SSN?

Maybe if we stood up together and did something, (Can you say class action suit) instead of argue about numbers, we would be better off.

There is a cause of action for invasion of privacy.

Invasion of Privacy

To properly state a cause for invasion of privacy, the plaintiff must allege:

Elements to prove for Invasion of Privacy:

1. Defendant [Gov] publicized a matter [SSNs]concerning the private life of plaintiff.
2. The matter would be highly offensive to reasonable persons.
3. The matter is not one of legitimate concern to the public.
4. Plaintiff suffered damages as a direct result.


Maybe, Washington, Jefferson and Madison would stop rolling in their graves if we all got together and did something.

Warnold says:

Sooner or later use of SSN will ENSLAVE US to the power of what is used as money, and Our Self. Yes, voluntary Slavery is absolutely legal and lawful in the good ole uSA today.

The only practical ID that belongs to You is you (fingerprint perhaps, or just making up the mind as to who you are, and who you want to be and then work for that). As soon as we learn to be independent again and stop depending on and demanding the gubbermint to take care of US from Birth to Death we will again enjoy the freedom of independence from another PERSON over US.

Until I become independent and responsible for what I want, do and say, I will be in bondage to the Life another gives me.

If I believe in the American Dream at the expense of another PERSON, or the expense of the American PEOPLE, or the expense of the other People of the World, I am asleep. WE need to wake up to the reality of who and what WE are – Now. We can not depend on another to define (ID) who We are without suffering their definition (ID) of who they are.

Our Government was not to Lord over US but to serve by protecting US from enemies, foreign and domestic, and regulate commerce with an honesty money supply so We could Live Free and Independent. Our enemy is not foreign.

You can Stop using the number, and dishonesty in Money (the Taxpayer Identification Number for the Interest on the gubbermint’s Debt, and the Fed’s fictitious money). We didn’t get to where we are over night and it is going to take effort, real effort, to change, to really change. The Change may be more challenging than the Effort necessary to change.

“It’s not what you Don’t Know, but What You DO Know – THAT AIN’T SO…” That’s is the problem – and the solution.

Our values have changed and we might want to consider the values of what once made US a good People and a great Nation, and that starts with SELF Honesty.
Can You identify?

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