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.

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Comments on “US Gov't: Do Not Carry Your Social Security Number; US Gov't: You Must Carry Your Social Security Number”

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Evil Mike (profile) says:

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.”

SierraNightTide says:

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

Just Me says:


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.

JB says:

DoD Is taking steps.

My latest military ID is sans a social security number printed on it. See this link:
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.”

Lisa Van Houten (user link) says:

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.

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