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phaedryx's avatar

Do you consider it identity theft to use someone else's social security number?

Asked by phaedryx (6107 points ) November 30th, 2010

I just read this article and it made me curious what other people thought: http://redtape.msnbc.com/2010/11/courts-using-anothers-ssn-not-a-crime.html

First paragraph:
“Is using a forged Social Security Number—but your own name—to obtain employment or buy a car an identity theft crime? Lately, U.S. courts are saying it’s not.”

What if you aren’t targeting anyone in particular, you just make up a number that happens to be assigned to somebody else? What if the SSN is the only piece of information that isn’t yours?

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14 Answers

rexpresso's avatar

The other day I googled John Doe SSN to find a real SSN that I could put in my cellphone provider’s online form to get two more free SIM cards… I don’t feel wrong about this in particular at least, I just wanted two more cards :)

poisonedantidote's avatar

If you just make up some number, then no, it’s not identity theft in my eyes. If the number is used once and was totally random, its not identity theft. However, if you used the same number more than once I would say it is identity theft, as you regularly use that number as a form of identification, and it has the element of incorporating the number in to your own identity.

So to me, if we are going to get picky, no its not identity theft, but it still is fraud any way you cut it.

not a lawyer

YoBob's avatar

Frankly, I am appalled.

To me, the use of another persons SSN is the very definition of identity theft as things like credit scores and criminal background checks are tied to SSN, not name.

I have personally been impacted by my SSN being falsely associated with another (child molesting) scumbags name and it caused a minor annoyance when a background check was done (easy enough to prove since he was in prison for screwing kids during a time whine I could prove gainful employment elsewhere). However, I can only hope that the “glitch” does not remain persistent in the databases used to hold such information. That sort of think can cause some very real consequences like being denied consideration for job interviews without even being given the opportunity to prove the error.

Sad…

jeffgoldblumsprivatefacilities's avatar

Even if the number is randomly obtained, and not used in conjunction with its real owner’s information, it could still negatively impact the real owner in a very severe way. This is absolutely identity theft, and deplorable.

marinelife's avatar

Whatever the legal loophole, which will soon be fixed by legislation, I am sure, using a made up SSN that might be assigned to someone else is wrong.

JLeslie's avatar

I can see the argument for it not being identity theft, but It certainly should be some sort of criminal offense under the law. When illegal immigrants use false SS numbers they actually pay into our tax system, and usually never get any of that money back. When applying for a loan; how does that happen? Doesn’t your name have to match up with the SS number? If they run your credit they see your name. Unless you have a very common name I guess, but the report has past adresses, all sorts of identifyers. I would assume it is illegal to use a false identity? Name or SS number. Shocking.

JustJessica's avatar

Absolutely, if your using a SSN that belongs to someone else. But if you just make up a number that’s not attached to real person, it’s not identity theft, but still wrong….—I think—- ... crap now I’m questioning myself

Seaofclouds's avatar

@JustJessica But how do you know if it’s tied to someone else? That to me says using any kind of false SS number is fraud. We each have our own for a reason.

JustJessica's avatar

@Seaofclouds This is very true.

plethora's avatar

@Seaofclouds Damn, we agree on something.

@phaedryx Without question it is fraud regardless of how I “feel” about it, regardless of court confusion on the issue. Court opinions change all the time.

roundsquare's avatar

Under what law? I just read the very beginning of the article, but the idea that you need to purposely harm someone for it to be a crime is fairly common in the law. In general, if you are just “negligent” its not a crime (unless the law specifically says negligence is enough).

Therefore, the probability that you are stealing a SSN is relevant. SSNs have 9 digits which means there are 1 trillion SSN to choose from. There are about 300 million people in the US. That means the probability a random SSN belongs to a (living) person is 30%. Thats pretty bad… but I’m not sure what a court would think.

Also, I’m pretty sure using a fake SSN is a crime itself… so someone could still be found guilty of something even if its not identity theft.

Jwtd's avatar

@roundsquare: 10^9 is a billion, 10^12 is trillion.

phaedryx's avatar

There are actually a bunch of restrictions on what a valid SSN can be: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_security_number#Valid_SSNs, e.g. you can’t use 000–00-0000

roundsquare's avatar

@Jwtd D’oh! Oh well, the rest of the math still holds.

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