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Social Security Number: A Key to Identity Fraud

Social Security has been one of the country's most successful programs. It aids people from financial uncertainty especially in their trying times.
The program provides several protections such as:
• progressive benefit formula
• comprehensive insurance benefits that include disability
• survivors and retirement benefits
• spouses’ benefits
• a cost of living adjustment
• coverage until death
These protections will be placed at risk if fraud related claims continue to spoil Social Security.
Identity theft using the Social Security numbers (SSNs) is one of the common Social Security frauds that have been weakening the program.
History on the Use of Social Security Numbers
SSNs were first issued in 1936. The federal government assured the public that the use of the numbers would be restricted to Social Security programs such as calculating retirement benefits.
Today, however, SSN has become the de facto general identifier.
Government agencies and private businesses use SSNs even for a wide range of non-Social Security purposes. These purposes include:
• employee files
• medical records
• health insurance accounts
• credit and banking accounts,
• university ID cards
• utility accounts
The use of SSNs as both an identifier and an authenticator makes these numbers highly desirable to fraudulent acts, such as identity theft.
Social Security Fraud by Using SSN
Identity fraud is not all about money. The persistent use of SSNs as an identification mechanism gives the thieves many options.
Identity thieves seek SSNs so they can use these numbers to assume the identity of another person and commit fraud.
A thief can fraudulently use your SSN to assume your identity and gain access not only to your Social Security information but also to your bank accounts, credit accounts, utilities records, and other sources of personal information.
They can also establish new credit and bank accounts in your name, use your SSN for employment purposes or obtain medical care.
How to Prevent Identity Theft
Official efforts are under way to restrict use of SSNs. For instance, the Social Security Administration shortens SSNs on the benefit statements it mails each year.
While essential information can be acquired in credit card, bank accounts and other documents, SSNs are the most common way of getting personal information.
In California, for instance, a birth certificate (or many other types of documents) and a valid SSN are required to get driver's license or identification card.
The following steps are essential in reducing identity theft using SSNs:
• Protect your SSN. Provide it only when necessary such as in tax forms, employment records, most banking, stock and property transactions. The SSN is the key to your credit and banking accounts and is the prime target of thieves.
• If business or establishment requests your SSN, ask if you can use another number instead.
• Do not have your SSN printed on your checks. Do not let merchants write the SSN onto your checks because of the risk of fraud.
• Do not utter your SSN aloud when you are in a public place. Speak softly or write it down on a piece of paper instead. Be sure to retrieve and shred that paper after use.
• Check your Social Security Personal Earnings and Benefits Estimate Statement each year to check for fraud.
• Do not carry your SSN card in your wallet except for emergencies.
• Do not carry wallet cards that display the SSN such as insurance cards, except when needed to receive healthcare services.
Theft identity entails a lot of damage. If you are a victim of it, consult a Social Security fraud attorney to help you in your tedious legal battle ahead.
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