TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Social Security Number Access Being Eyed

Social Security Number Access Being Eyed

Monty Solomon (
Fri, 29 Jul 2005 18:51:51 -0400

By BRIAN BERGSTEIN AP Technology Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- Recent disclosures of massive data leaks at
information brokers, banks and retailers have prompted Congress to
once again consider tightening access to Social Security numbers,
which have evolved into dangerous master keys for fraudsters.

But Social Security numbers already have come under a hodgepodge of
restrictions over the years, and many experts question whether the new
proposals would truly hinder identity theft.

In fact, reducing some companies' access to Social Security numbers
could even worsen the situation.

Several identity theft watchdogs say the bills would neglect the
deeper reason why financial fraud is relatively easy: Speed, not
identity assurance, is the main priority of U.S. financial
institutions that issue credit.

To be sure, the fact that many companies use Social Security numbers
essentially as a password _ not only are they the key to getting
credit, they can also unlock access to an account over the phone _
magnifies the problem. That's why Congress hopes to hide the numbers
better _ by reducing the ways they can be sold, for example, or by
prohibiting them from being printed on benefit checks.

Even so, keeping the numbers and other personal data out of the wrong
hands likely will remain tricky.


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