Today the Social Security Administration (SSA) Office of the Inspector General reported that a New York woman admitted to owning and operating a website in 2013 and 2014 through which she sold stolen Social Security Numbers (SSNs).
She advertised these stolen SSNs as “credit profile numbers” and encouraged her customers to use these SSNs in place of their own on credit and loan applications, as a way for customers to avoid their own negative credit histories. She faces up to 30 years in prison, up to 5 years of post-imprisonment supervised release and a maximum $250,000 fine when she is sentenced on May 14, 2018. For details see https://oig.ssa.gov/audits-and-investigations/investigations/jan9-ny-ssn-fraud
HOW YOU CAN AVOID IDENTITY THEFT AND PROTECT YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER
To protect your Social Security Number the Social Security Administration (SSA) suggests the following:
• Never list an SSN when posting a paper record on a public bulletin board
• Never send SSNs via an electronic format
• Never have a computer log-in system where a person has to use their SSN
• Never use SSNs on ID cards
• Never send SSNs on postcards
• Never store SSNs on unprotected computer systems
• Never carry a Social Security Number card on your person
RESOURCES: PREVENTING IDENTITY THEFT AND EFFECTIVELY RESPONDING
According to the SSA the issue of improper or unnecessary use of SSNs is still very much on the public’s radar. The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) returned to this issue in a 2011 field hearing concerning use and protection of SSNs and child identity theft, and has audited use and protection of SSNs by hospitals, schools and prisons, not to mention SSA itself.
You can find other recent OIG Audit reports at http://oig.ssa.gov/audits-and-investigations/audit-reports/all . Also, there have been several bills in Congress on the general issue of use of SSNs as identifiers which, if passed, could make the issue very current again http://thomas.loc.gov/ .
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ABOUT IDENTITY THEFT
The SSA recommends a number of resources which provide additional information on dealing with identity theft and how to prevent it, including:
• FTC is the lead federal agency on identity theft. Their website is http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft/
• SSA offers a great deal of information on SSNs on our internet site at http://www.ssa.gov/ssnumber/.