Social Security numbers still used as ID

The recent Equifax security breach impacted our personal information including social security numbers. Now, many are wondering why we still use our SS numbers as the prime form of ID.

Back in 1936, the Social Security number was created to track earnings histories for US workers to get their benefits. Eighty-one years's still our key form of identification.

Even if asked, we don't HAVE to give out our social security number. Social Security Administration's Phylis Dills says by denying, we might be denied.

“The social security number continues to be used to keep a record of workers’ earnings and to monitor benefits paid under the Social Security program,” said Dills.

Except for the employer and financial institutions, which need them for tax reporting purposes, people are not required to give their Social Security number to private businesses. Giving the number is voluntary even when asked for the number directly. Dills suggests a few things people can do to protect their number. If requested, they should ask:

  • Why the number is needed;
  • How the number will be used;
  • What happens if they refuse;
  • What law requires them to give the number

Cyber security and data privacy attorney Shawn Tuma says our social security numbers were never supposed to be our identification, but now we're stuck with it.

“The best rule of thumb really is you be vigilant and protect your own information,” said Tuma. “We have to be proactive.”

Tuma adds any other form has the same security risks.

“One of the most difficult challenges of security is identification and authentication of who you really area and we recommend using more than one means any time you can,” said Tuma.

Tuma said other options like a national identification system, biometrics (iris scans, fingerprints), or even being microchipped aren't completely fool proof , either.

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