General Question

Sarcasm's avatar

Just what can be done with someone's Social Security Number?

Asked by Sarcasm (16758points) September 1st, 2010

All throughout my life, I’ve been warned about my SSN. I need to keep it safe, I need to not tell it to people, I need to memorize it and not carry it anywhere on my body, so that nobody can steal it.

But as I slowly creep into the world of adulthood, I’m finding a lot that I do need to give this magical number to people. I had to give it over the phone yesterday to someone in the IRS. I had give it to someone at school today to order something. I have to keep my Military ID card with me at all times if I want to get into the base (and the Military ID does have SSN on it). Employers need it. Landlords need it.

I know that this number is unique, but I have no idea what it even does. All I know is that I’m supposed to simultaneously protect it from some people, and apply it liberally to other people.

If this number falls into the wrong hands, what exactly can happen?

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7 Answers

trailsillustrated's avatar

I have often wondered the same thing. I guess it’s about indentity theft, but what about the picture id they would need-

wundayatta's avatar

I can use it to set up bank accounts and take out loans or get a credit card, and then spend lots of money and leave you on the hook for it.

I actually have a list of SSNs from a number of years ago—I think. I had access to it through work on a health insurance program. I think I brought it home to work on it, and it is probably still around on one computer or another. Of course, this was probably nearly a decade ago and the people were all elderly, so many may no longer be alive.

john65pennington's avatar

Your Social Security number is yours and only yours. its the Federal Governments way of keeping track of your activities, concerning income tax and governement situations. keep your number safe. losing your numbers to a thief can be devastating to your personal credit. thieves and web hackers constantly search for people SS numbers and dates of birth, so criminal activity can take place for their benefit and not yours.

MissAnthrope's avatar

Someone could steal your identity, in a lot of ways. With your SS number, they can become you. At the very least, they can take out credit cards in your name and I imagine they could pretty much use your SS number/ID in any sort of credit-related transaction (background check, getting documents in your name, etc.).

Then, after they’ve dragged your credit through the mud, they drop you like a dress on prom night, and then you’re left mopping up the mess they left behind.

As I’ve said on here before, SS numbers were never intended to be used as they are now, as national identification. So, this makes it even worse to me, considering how often you have to give it out (or how often it’s asked for) and how uncertain it is whether a company or organization will be able to keep our information safe.

jazmina88's avatar

In customer service, we hear these bloody numbers all day long and couldnt care less.

people could even buy a house in your name. and make a photo id. Those are the folk who dont have jobs.

robmandu's avatar

Three major legitimate uses, and they all overlap a bit:

1. Government. Ostensibly for Social Security benefits (duh), but also for other branches of federal, state, and local, too. This includes military and university (although most colleges will assign you an alternative number if you request not to use SSN).

2. Credit and finance. The major credit tracking companies use your SSN to track you uniquely. Banks and other financial institutions also need it for IRS reporting of taxable income.

3. Insurance. Your private insurance, especially as you get older, is tied to government-provided health benefits and tracking. Also, your insurance rates are partially determined by your credit score.

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