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.

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'?

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.”

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.

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.

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.

The Secure Transcript: Survey of U.S. Universities' Use of the SSN on Academic Transcripts (Titus)

Most universities have moved away from using students' Social Security Numbers as their Student ID, but because the SSN continues to be a convenient identification number, ancillary higher education organizations, such as lending institutions, continue to use the SSN as a universal identification number.  As a result, some universities which have otherwise discontinued using the SSN as a student ID, continue to print the student's SSN on academic transcripts and official documentation.

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

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.

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