There is Nothing “Secure” About Your Social Security Number

Not 24 hours after I posted my most recent blog about protecting consumers against identity theft, reports that thieves stole tax information of 100,000 taxpayers from the IRS surfaced.

How does this even continue to occur? It doesn’t seem as if there are any competent organizations capable of protecting sensitive data. This instance is all the more infuriating because information is being stolen from an entity that by law we are required to furnish it to for tax purposes.

While the use of social security numbers has evolved over the decades, it is apparent that the technology and safeguards required to protect us are severely lagging.

The Social Security number (SSN) was created in 1936 for the sole purpose of tracking the earnings histories of U.S. workers, for use in determining Social Security benefit entitlement and computing benefit levels. Since then, use of the SSN has expanded substantially. Today the SSN may be the most commonly used numbering system in the United States. As of December 2008, the Social Security Administration (SSA) had issued over 450 million original SSNs, and nearly every legal resident of the United States had one. The SSN's very universality has led to its adoption throughout government and the private sector as a chief means of identifying and gathering information about an individual. (by Carolyn Puckett Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 69 No. 2, 2009)