Social Security Numbers in the Private Sector: Comments to the FTC


Consumers often are coerced into providing an SSN as a means of authentication or verification, where appropriate authentication could be achieved through other means.  Our PRC consumer hotline receives numerous calls from concerned individuals who are reluctant to provide this information either by telephone or online.  They have heard the warnings about guarding their SSNs to protect themselves from identity theft.  Yet paradoxically, they are afraid to take advantage of two important services that can help reduce their potential exposure to identity theft.

Bogus E-Mail Message Impersonates Social Security Administration


The Agency has received several reports of an email message being circulated with the subject “Cost-of-Living for 2007 update” and purporting to be from the Social Security Administration. The message provides information about the 3.3 percent benefit increase for 2007 and contains the following “NOTE: We now need you to update your personal information. If this is not completed by November 11, 2006, we will be forced to suspend your account indefinitely.” The reader is then directed to a website designed to look like Social Security’s Internet website.

PRC Portrayed in Lifetime Movie: Identity Theft - The Michelle Brown Story


A few years ago a Southern California woman named Michelle Brown contacted the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse seeking help regarding an especially difficult identity theft situation. The thief obtained information provided by Michelle on a housing application and procured over $50,000 in goods and services including a lease for an apartment, a $32,000 truck, and liposuction. The thief also obtained a state- issued ID using Michelle's name and later engaged in drug smuggling for which she was arrested as Michelle.

The Saga of Shredding in the U.S.: A Privacy Advocate's Perspective


Even though since those "early years" in our identity theft work shredding has become a household word and shredders are a common household item, trash is still a lucrative source of Social Security numbers and other useful bits of personal information for those who perpetrate identity theft.

College and University Privacy Issues: Social Security Numbers and Smart Cards


Overview: There are many privacy issues facing colleges and universities today. This presentation covers only the first two below:

  • SSNs as student identification numbers
    - Identity theft and other security issues
  • Multi-purpose "smart" cards, privacy implications
  • Violence profiling
  • Weapons searches
  • Drug testing
  • E-mail, Internet uses, websites, acceptable use policy
  • Records disclosure

Identity Theft: How It Happens, Its Impact on Victims, and Legislative Solutions


I appreciate the ability to provide written and oral testimony on the skyrocketing crime of identity theft, its impact on victims, and possible solutions. And I commend you and the Subcommittee members for addressing this issue. My written testimony is in four parts:

  • Topic number one is the crime itself - what is identity theft, how much of it is going on, and why it is happening in epidemic proportions.

  • Second, I will discuss the many ways in which identity thieves obtain the bits and pieces of information they need to impersonate others -- mainly Social Security numbers (SSN) and credit card account numbers.

  • Third, I will explain some of the impacts on victims.

  • And fourth, I will recommend legislative and industry measures to prevent identity theft and to expedite the ability of victims to regain their financial health.

Social Security Administration Forum


The outcry that greeted the Social Security Administration's launch of the Personal Earnings and Benefits Statement on the Internet was a sign of the times. When many members of the public learned that information as sensitive as their annual wages and the amounts of their contributions to the SSA and Medicare would be available on the Internet, it brought up their concerns about control.

Who asked me?

Who else but me might be able to access that information?

What other uses can be made of that data that might harm me?

What safeguards are in place to ensure that this information does not get into the wrong hands?

What if I don't want my record on the Internet -- can I say 'no'?

Federal Reserve Board "Credit Header" Comments


Recent amendments to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, signed into law on September 30, 1996, directed the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve Board to conduct a study on the availability of sensitive identification information about consumers and the possible use of such information for financial fraud.

The comments provided herein by the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse focus on "credit header" information as well as the widespread availability of Social Security numbers.

Does Medicare's Use of Social Security Numbers Enable Identity Theft?


February 24, 2012

Read a new editorial submitted by a PRC supporter.

Identity theft, a growing problem, is regularly in the news. We are warned to keep our Social Security numbers safe, to not carry our SSN cards with us.  But recently, I joined the ranks of Medicare recipients and, to my surprise, found that my Medicare number is my SSN number--and we are instructed to carry it with us at all times. 

Why does the senior citizens van service need SSNs?


September 1, 1995

The local transit agency puts riders' SSNs on the passes that must be shown upon entering the vehicle.

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