My Social Security Number - How Secure Is It?


Fact Sheet 10My Social Security Number - How Secure Is It?

When Social Security numbers were first issued in 1936, the federal government assured the public that use of the numbers would be limited to Social Security programs such as calculating retirement benefits. Today, however, the Social Security number (SSN) has become the de facto national identifier.

Government agencies and private businesses use SSNs for a wide range of non-Social Security purposes — such as employee files, medical records, health insurance accounts, credit and banking accounts, university ID cards, utility accounts, and many more. The use of SSNs as both an identifier and an authenticator makes these numbers highly desirable to criminals, such as identity thieves.

Social Security Numbers FAQ


Fact Sheet 10aSocial Security Numbers FAQ

A company I do business with recently called and left a message on my answering machine asking for my SSN and date of birth. I've heard one should never give out this information over the phone. Can they do this?  Is it normal to ask for this information?

I gave out my Social Security number over the phone and now I am worried that it is a scam. What should I do?

Someone knows my personal information and Social Security number, but I do not trust the person. What can I do to protect myself?

Learn the answers to these and other questions by reading our Fact Sheet on Social Security Numbers Frequently Asked Questions. Learn how to guard your Social Security number and what to do if you accidentally give it out.

From Cradle to Grave: Government Records and Your Privacy


Fact Sheet 11From Cradle to Grave:
Government Records and Your Privacy

Coping with Identity Theft: Reducing the Risk of Fraud


Fact Sheet 17Coping with Identity Theft:
Reducing the Risk of Fraud

Data Breaches: A Year in Review


2011 was a significant year for data security, with some of the biggest data breaches in our history reported. So far in 2011, we’ve tracked 535 breaches involving 30.4 million sensitive records. This brings the total reported records breached in the U.S. since 2005 to the alarming number of 543 million.

Privacy Rights Clearinghouse has been tracking breaches since 2005 and publishes aChronology of Data Breaches. The Chronology counts the number of records leaked that contain information useful to identity thieves, such as Social Security numbers, financial account numbers, driver's license numbers – and in some states, medical information.

Read our list of the top half dozen most significant data breaches in 2011.

Disasters and Your Privacy


Nobody likes to think about the possibility of a natural disaster or a terrorist act.   But as victims of natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina can attest, it’s important to prepare for a disaster before it happens.  Certainly, your first concerns in an emergency should be your safety and basic needs such as shelter, food and water.  While there are many resources that can assist you with those concerns, this alert will focus on protecting your privacy and personal information during and after a disaster.

It’s important to realize that different types of disasters are likely to result in different consequences.  You may be asked to shelter in place, to evacuate to a facility in your own community, or possibly to relocate to a far-off location in another state.  Or you may choose to stay with a relative or friend.  Likewise, you may be able to return to your home after a short while, or there may be an extended period of absence.  In the worst case, your home and its contents may be completely destroyed.

Census Scams -- You Can Count on It


Now that the April 1st mail-in deadline has passed, Census employees are expected to make home visits to those individuals who did not return their Census forms.  Census workers will begin visiting private homes on May 1st.  Be careful. Scam artists posing as Census workers may engage in a number of tactics to collect personal information about you to commit fraud.  Typically, scammers will seek to obtain information such as your Social Security number or financial information.  Don’t fall for the trap!  At Census time and throughout the year, guard your personal information carefully. 

If you are not certain of the legitimacy of a request for information from the Census or any other organization, ask questions.  Do not provide any personal information until you have verified the identity of the requester. Read our tips so that you don’t fall prey to a scammer.

Scare Away Scammers


Most people are aware of the dangers posed by scams that claim to be originating from a business.  But what if you receive an e-mail, phone call, or letter claiming to come from a government agency?  Many consumers are likely to assume that such communications are legitimate because they appear to come from the government.

Unfortunately, these types of scams do occur.  Communications may claim to be from the IRS, the Social Security Administration, Medicare, your local Commissioner of Jurors, or other government agencies.  Learn about some of the recents scams and what you should do to avoid becoming a victim.

Protecting Your Social Security Number at Tax Time


Identity thieves want your Social Security number (SSN) so they can assume your identity and commit fraud. Around tax time, protecting your SSN takes on even greater importance. The Information Returns that you receive (Forms W-2 and 1099) as well as your IRS income tax return (Form 1040) will all contain your SSN. Each of these forms, if not handled properly, presents an opportunity for your SSN to be used fraudulently.

Uses of Social Security Numbers in the Private Sector: Why SSNs Are Not Appropriate for Authentication


The SSN has evolved since its establishment in 1935 and implementation in 1936 to be used as both an identifier and an authenticator. 

This morning, we heard from a panel of experts on the use of the Social Security number as an identifier.  As an identifier, the SSN is provided by individuals to answer the question, “Who are you?” As an authenticator, the topic of this panel, the SSN is provided by individuals in response to a challenge: “Prove who you are.”

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