Guess who may be compromising the security of your Social Security Number.

The Social Security Administration!

Yep, that’s right. Did you know that 66 percent of the mail the SSA sends out contains someone’s Social Security number? This is what the inspector general of the SSA, Kimberly Byrd, says, and I believe it.

How many pieces of mail is this? Over 230,000,000. This situation is problematic.

  • The SSA claims it will cost over $19 million to reduce these mailings.
  • It also won’t happen anytime soon.
  • The SSA can’t even give a time estimation for when these mailings will be cut back, and Byrd says that security should trump convenience.
  • It is not known what percentage of the mail-outs reach their intended addresses, and this includes the not-so-uncommon problem of mail carriers delivering to the wrong address. Imagine that the wrong recipient is also an identity thief, and sees that Social Security number upon opening someone else’s mail…
  • Another reason many mail-outs may end up in the wrong hands is that the addresses are no longer accurate for the recipient.
  • And then of course there is mail theft. Or someone can easily change your mailing address. It’s maddening actually.
  • Though some mailings do require the SSN, others don’t, and many other entities, such as private businesses, have found a way around this sticky problem, though this doesn’t mean they’ve eliminated 100 percent of it.
  • Another plan to help reduce the number of SSNs flying around out there is the use of the Beneficiary Notice Control Number—used on a case-by-case basis, says the Social Security Administration.

Nevertheless, it’s maddening that the Administration has failed to yield a deadline range for these changes. Let’s face it, the SSN is responsible for the judicious handling of our Social Security numbers, and 230 million mailings—without verification that the addresses match the recipients—is hardly judicious.

Think of how often, over the past five years, you’ve accidentally received someone else’s mail. This is common and a gateway for crooks to steal somebody’s identity.

The Fix

  • The SSA should make deletion of SSNs from their correspondence a top priority—and once they do that, things will start falling more together.
  • Revisit the estimated cost it would take to implement the reduction of mail containing SSNs.
  • YOU need to getting a locking mailbox.
  • YOU need to get a credit freeze and invest in identity theft prevention. These two solutions make your SSN relatively less attractive to a thief.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to TheBestCompanys.com discussing identity theft prevention.

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