Do you know where your SSN is?

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By Consumers Union on Wednesday, December 12th, 2007

It’s time to get Social Security numbers off the Internet, out of our wallets, and out of our mail.

SSN Polaroid The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) held public a workshop on Security Numbers (SSN) in Washington, DC on Monday and Tuesday, December 10 and 11, 2007. The workshop was a continuation of the work of the President’s Identity Theft Task Force, and, in particular, its recommendation to explore ways to reduce unnecessary uses of SSNs. To view the transcripts of the workshop proceedings click here: http://htc-01.media.globix.net/COMP008760MOD1/ftc_web/FTCindex.html#Dec10_07.

Consumer advocates voice concern

“It’s no wonder millions of Americans fall victim to identity theft every year given how widely Social Security numbers are collected and used and the lack of any meaningful restrictions to protect them,” said Jeannine Kenney, Senior Policy Analyst with Consumers Union. “If federal policymakers are serious about fighting identity theft, they should make it harder for crooks to get their hands on Social Security numbers. That means limiting the purchase, sale, and unnecessary collection of these sensitive numbers.

Kenney presented findings of a Consumer Reports National Research Center poll at the FTC forum showing that 89 percent of Americans want state and federal lawmakers to restrict the use and availability of Social Security numbers by businesses and government agencies. “Americans are clearly concerned that the widespread use of Social Security numbers puts them at risk of fraud and want lawmakers to restrict this practice,” said Kenney. “It’s time to get Social Security numbers off the Internet, out of our wallets, and out of our mail to help reduce the threat of identity theft.”

There ought to be a law

According to Kenney, the poll revealed that 87 percent of consumers have been asked in the past year to provide their Social Security number in whole or in part by a business or government agency. Requests come from a wide variety of businesses for purposes beyond credit, employment, or tax compliance. Many requests come from businesses that have no clear need to collect these numbers.

There are several pending congressional proposals that would restrict the sale, purchase, and display of Social Security numbers. Consumers Union recommends that the sale and purchase of the numbers be tightly restricted and that solicitation be prohibited except where required by law or where needed for credit, employment, tax compliance, or investment purposes. Click here to learn more about the poll’s findings. http://www.consumersunion.org/pub/core_financial_services/005278.html.
The FTC offers a report on the use of social security numbers on its website. To access the report click here: http://www.ftc.gov/reports/ssn/2007ssn.pdf

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