One In Seven Social Security Numbers Are Shared

More than 20 million Americans have multiple Social Security numbers (SSNs) associated with their name in commercial records according to a new study announced in December from ID Analytics, Inc. The study found that rather than serving as a unique identifier, more than 40 million SSNs are associated with multiple people.

6.1 percent of Americans have at least two SSNs associated with their name.  More than 100,000 Americans have five or more SSNs associated with their name.

Dr. Stephen Coggeshall, chief technology officer, at ID Analytics said. “Most of these cases of duplication are likely due to simple data entry errors as opposed to deliberate falsification. Nevertheless, organizations expose themselves and their customers to risk if they solely rely on the SSN to verify an individual.”

ID Analytics analyzed 290 million Social Security numbers, and found that 1 in 7 are associated with more than one name. Anywhere from 3-4 million names are directly used to commit fraud.

MSNBC reported the same study showed 140,000 SSNs are connected to 5 or more people and 27,000 SSNs are connected to 10 or more people.

Some of these secondary SSNs are the result of typos where an administrator may incorrectly enter a digit and then that secondary SSN is now connected to a person’s credit going forward.

In other cases it is deliberate fraud. When the same person is shown using multiple Social Security numbers on purpose then a flag is raised.

Consumers often find out their SSN is compromised as a result of being denied credit or when bill collectors call them for non payment.

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Robert Siciliano is a McAfee Consultant and Identity Theft Expert. See him discussing how to protect yourself from identity theft on (Disclosures)