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Are Social Security numbers poised to undergo a major change?

Published on April 11th, 2014

Without a doubt, one of the most talked about subjects of the past week has been the so-called “Heartbleed” Internet security glitch. While a technical discussion of this issue is clearly beyond the scope of our blog, “Heartbleed” has essentially exposed the online passwords of computer users for the last two years due to a flaw in a commonly utilized piece of security software.

Understandably, one of the major concerns that most people have after hearing about this password exposure is whether cyber criminals have illegally accessed their accounts, acquiring otherwise vital information such as account numbers, pin numbers and, of course, Social Security numbers.

These concerns are certainly not unfounded when you stop and consider just how often Social Security Numbers are used, targeted and exploited by cyber criminals:

  • According to Identity Theft Resource Center, Social Security numbers were exposed in half of all data breaches in 2013.
  • According to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, roughly $3.6 billion in potentially fraudulent tax returns were issued in 2011 using stolen Social Security numbers.
  • According to the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive, Social Security numbers can fetch hackers up to $3 apiece.

In light of how often these nine-digit numbers, used in everything from taxes to bank loans, are implicated in cyber crime, federal officials are now actively investigating ways to make sure they are used more thoughtfully.

This is not to say that the Social Security Administration has plans to eventually eliminate the over 70-year-old numbering system. Rather, it’s likely it would roll out some type on online ID platform that would enable users to access several government agencies at once without having to enter a separate identification — potentially putting their Social Security numbers at risk — each time.

Still another option advanced by some experts is the idea of somehow incorporating biometric information, like a fingerprint. Here, then, Social Security numbers would have to be accompanied by an entirely unique and seemingly failsafe cyber security mechanism.

It will be interesting to see how the technology surrounding around our Social Security numbers evolves in the coming years. In the meantime, people need to remember to remember to always be vigilant when providing any kind of vital personal information either online or in-person.

If you would like to learn more about your rights and your options for securing SSD benefits, consider contacting an experienced and dedicated attorney who can help guide you through the complex process.

Source: The Wall Street Journal Market Watch, “Is the end of Social Security numbers at hand?” Priya Anand, April 9, 2014

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