Misuse of Social Security Identification Rampant


By: Jim Kouri, CPP

In 1936, the Social Security Administration established the Social Security number to track worker’s earnings for Social Security benefit purposes. Despite its narrowly intended purpose, the SSN is now used for a myriad of non-Social Security purposes. Today, SSNs are used, in part, as identity verification tools for services such as child support collections, law enforcement enhancements, and issuing credit to individuals.

Although these uses can be beneficial to the public, the SSN is now a key piece of information in creating false identities. The aggregation of personal information, such as SSNs, in large corporate databases and the increased availability of information via the Internet may provide criminals the opportunities to commit identity theft.

Although Congress and the states have enacted a number of laws to protect consumers’ privacy, the public and private sectors’ continued use of and reliance on SSNs, and the potential for misuse, underscore the importance of strengthening protections where possible. There is a significant concern by both liberals and conservatives over using the SSN as a defacto ID number and the Social Security card being used as a de facto ID card.

The public and private sector use of SSNs is widespread. Agencies at all levels of government frequently collect and use SSNs to administer their programs, verify applicants’ eligibility for services and benefits, and conduct research and evaluations of their programs. Although some government agencies are taking steps to limit the use and display of SSNs, these numbers are still widely available in a variety of public records held by states, local jurisdictions, and courts.

In addition, certain private sector entities that the General Accounting Office analysts have reviewed, such as information resellers, credit reporting agencies (CRAs), and health care organizations, also routinely obtain and use SSNs. These entities often obtain SSNs from various public sources or their clients and use SSNs for various purposes, such as building tools that aid in verifying an individual’s identity or matching records from various sources.

Given the extent to which government and private sector entities use SSNs, Congress has enacted federal laws to restrict the use and disclosure of consumers’ personal information, including SSNs. Many states have also enacted their own legislation to restrict the use and display of SSNs, focusing on public display restrictions, SSN solicitation, and customer notifications when SSNs are compromised.

Also, Congress has recently introduced consumer privacy legislation similar to enacted state legislation, which in some cases includes SSN restrictions. Although there is some consistency in the various proposed and enacted federal and state laws, gaps remain in protecting individuals’ personal information from fraud and identity theft. Some federal agencies are beginning to collect statistics on identity theft crime, which appears to be growing.

For example, recent statistics show that identity theft is increasing in New York. In 2004, Federal Trade Commission statistics indicated that over 17,600 New Yorkers reported being a victim of identity theft, which is up from roughly 7,000 in 2001.

Sources: Social Security Administration, General Accounting Office, Federal Trade Commission, American Federation of Police and Concerned Citizens

Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and he’s a columnist for The Examiner (examiner.com) and New Media Alliance (thenma.org). In addition, he’s a blogger for the Cheyenne, Wyoming Fox News Radio affiliate KGAB (www.kgab.com). Kouri also serves as political advisor for Emmy and Golden Globe winning actor Michael Moriarty.

He’s former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed “Crack City” by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for several major organizations. He’s also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. Kouri writes for many police and security magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer and others. He’s a news writer and columnist for AmericanDaily.Com, MensNewsDaily.Com, MichNews.Com, and he’s syndicated by AXcessNews.Com. Kouri appears regularly as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Fox News Channel, Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, etc.

To subscribe to Kouri’s newsletter write to COPmagazine@aol.com and write “Subscription” on the subject line.

About The Author Jim Kouri, CPP:
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and he's a columnist for The Examiner (examiner.com) and New Media Alliance (thenma.org). In addition, he's a blogger for the Cheyenne, Wyoming Fox News Radio affiliate KGAB (www.kgab.com). Kouri also serves as political advisor for Emmy and Golden Globe winning actor Michael Moriarty. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for several major organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. Kouri writes for many police and security magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer and others. He's a news writer and columnist for AmericanDaily.Com, MensNewsDaily.Com, MichNews.Com, and he's syndicated by AXcessNews.Com. Kouri appears regularly as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Fox News Channel, Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, etc. To subscribe to Kouri's newsletter write to COPmagazine@aol.com and write "Subscription" on the subject line.
Website:http://jimkouri.us