Stolen Property, Engraved SSN

I recently borrowed a radio from my mother to use at work. She has been concerned that it might be stolen. Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal, but it was a radio of my dad’s before he died. We were discussing whether the fact that he had engraved his social security number (and ‘KY’ for Kentucky) on the back would be of any help in case it were to be stolen. If the radio were found and the number traced to someone who was deceased, would the authorities bother to go any further to find the owner? We no longer live in Kentucky.

Honestly I’m not really concerned about this particular item, since, realistically, it isn’t worth much except sentimentally. But my dad engraved his SSN on just about anything that would sit still long enough, and we’ve often wondered what would happen if my mom’s house were to be robbed.

Myself, I’d just etch my name, address, and a phone number in my stuff. You can do too much if you know an SSN, whereas a name and some contact information would be sufficient to track down an owner.

Against theft, however, nothing would really work. Why? If you can etch something into a surface, someone else can erase it by just etching deeper. And if a thief found someone’s SSN, well, that opens a whole new can of worms.

It is much better to inscribe your driver’s license number (including the two letter state code) than your Social Security Number. Only the IRS and Social Security Administration can track you down by the the SSN. Even most law enforcement agencies cannot get your name and address from the SSN.

It can still be used as an “owner applied number”, which can be entered into NCIC to identify the stolen item if recovered.

Whoever took it would probably just sand off the numbers. It’s not a particular secure thing to do see. Now, if it were lost that’s another matter.

SSA will not ever give out an address but they will send a ONE time letter to the place the person last worked.

That is so if you have a long lost sister you can’t find her address but you can send the SSA a letter and they will forward it to her.

As a pawnbroker, I see a lot of inscribed items, and I’m not aware that anyone ever bothers to check if it was stolen or not. I certainly don’t. Unless your theft report miraculously got reported to my local cops and, wonder of wonders, they decided to come look for it or tell me about it, I’d sell your radio without a second thought. Of course, I wouldn’t get as much for it since someone sloppily scratched his SS# into it…

Hell, the cops in L.A. can’t even be bothered to look for the legal owner of recovered handguns! It was only by luck that I found out that one of my pistols was in the possession of the LAPD (I didn’t even know it was missing; ex-roomie removed it from the apartment.). If my ex-roommate hadn’t “'fessed up”, I have no doubt that I would never have recovered my pistol.

IMO, if the cops can’t be bothered to trace something with a serial number on it, I doubt if they’d do anything with a ss#. If you somehow found out it was recovered though, you could identify it yourself.

D Marie

Nothing against your dad, but having your SSN inscribed on anything which someone else can see or steal is a really bad idea. Even if you recover the lost item, SSN is the one vital element necessary for identity theft.

I would hope that any credit check against your dad’s SSN would come back as “rejected, SSN holder is deceased” but I wouldn’t want to risk it.



No offense taken. I was never really sure why he thought that was an effective theft prevention method, anyway. I just wondered what, if anything, putting the SSN on there would do for you, and if the situation was drastically changed by the fact that he was deceased. We were just curious. Thanks for your responses.