It is a simple matter for a criminal who has a person’s Social Security number to make that person a victim of identity theft.  It is for this reason that in 2007, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) urged all federal agencies to review the unnecessary use of Social Security numbers.  However, a recent report issued by the Office of the Inspector General for Social Security  found that of the 352 million notices sent out by the Social Security Administration (SSA) last year, 233 million of them contained the full Social Security number of the person to whom the notices were sent.  Making this matter worse is the fact that according to the Inspector General, the addresses to which these notices were sent were inaccurate in an undetermined number of instances.  The total number of times that such notices were incorrectly sent is not even monitored by the SSA making the matter worse.  As the Inspector General noted “Notices intercepted by unintended recipients could provide SSA beneficiaries’ names, addresses and Social Security numbers to individuals other than the numberholders.”  This obviously increases the risk of identity theft and as the Inspector General concluded, ” It is therefore, troubling that SSA continues including the full Social Security number on the majority of its mailings.”

TIPS

The SSA has already indicated that it would consider replacing the Social Security number in such notices with the Beneficiary Notice Control Number used by the SSA, which would dramatically reduce the danger of identity theft to people receiving the notices.  However, the SSA appears to be in no rush to implement this plan.  The Inspector General has urged the SSA to make removal of Social Security numbers from its correspondence a priority.  As for we, the public, there is little we can do about this other than speak to your Congressmen and Senators to urge them to require the SSA to take such action quickly.