Why isn't SSN privacy an issue with most people?

I just got my health insurance card (from a new provider) and was a little troubled by the fact my Member ID# is nothing but my federal Social Security Number with 3 Letters in front.

I always under the impression my SSN was only required to be provided to:

  1. The IRS
  2. Banks / Financial Institiutions (for tax purposes)
  3. Employers (for withholding purposes)

Well, I googled and found I was “Kind-of” correct, but there are no laws regrding private company’s requesting SSN info. It’s up to you to disclose such info (cited here).

I never considered myself paranoid, but with all the identity theft I’ve been hearing about, I don’t like the fact my SSN is right on my Blue Cross Blue Shield Insurance card.

I gave them a call, and all I got was, “well sir, that’s our policy…no one’s ever complained about this before”.

Huh, If I’m the only one calling to beef, I guess I am paranoid…but there’s something about it I don’t like.

Did they offer (or did you ask for them) to give you a new member ID? Most places that routinely use SSNs will do that if you ask.

And if not, I still wouldn’t sweat it. If someone wants to steal your identity, he can come up with a better way to do it than plucking your SSN off your health insurance card.

I often wonder about this myself. I have a small business and sometimes get checks from people who still have their SS# printed right on them under their name and phone#. Yikes! Now I have your bank account AND SS#! Just think what a dishonest person could do with those!

I find that a lot of places ask you for your SS# for no apparent reason, and if you leave it blank they won’t give you any trouble. If they do, you can say your parents were hippies and you don’t have a SS#, lol (will that work? I think you still have to apply for one, or are you assigned one automaticly now?)

I guess I’ve never worried about guarding my Social Security number simply because I’ve always thought of doing so as a lost cause. Back in the 60s the college I went to used my SS# as my student ID, for example. I’ve had a number of jobs that used my SS# as my employee ID.

The Master has this to say

The college I attended this year requires your SSN for everything. Your student ID is your SSN, so you end up giving it out fifty thousand times a day.

The main reason is that the problems with having your SSN readily available are below the radar screen of most people. Identity theft is a fairly new concept, and people just aren’t security conscious. It’s changing.

In New York State, colleges are required to avoid using SSNs as ID unless the ID is kept confidential. (You can only use it if you keep it confidential – no listing grades by SSN, for instance). What the state does want is for colleges to stop using it, but, in our case, it would be a lot of work to change everything, so we still use it and make sure it doesn’t appear in any public forum. If you want another number, we’ll assign one, but there are less than 20 students (out of 2700) who have other numbers, and most of them are foreign students who have no SSN.

I just signed up for a weekly adult education course at a community college. On the registration form, it asked for SSN, and had “(required)” next to that field, but not next to any other seemingly more imporant fields such as Last Name. They also asked for my birthdate.

Its disurbing because this one form faxed to some office has my credit card number (to pay for the course) and my SSN and birth date (for no reason).

What we need is a national ID number that public, and private passwords to prevent identity theft.

I just looked at my millitary id card and it has the social printed right on it. The card is the old kind that the millitary dont issue anymore. I dont think the new cards with the chip on them place the social on them. I think the millitary is very lousy with keeping the personel SSN secured. For example i must have placed my SSN on hundreds of forms for the time i been in the army reseve for the past 2 years. Some of this forms were totaly non-esential like forms for classroom attandance or forms to take out equipment. If you walk around my unit you will see paperwork all over with people SSN on it. Anyone can pretty much walk into most millitary office on almost any installation and pick up any paperwork from anywere and chances are there are SSN on them. I guess the millitary has not yet caught up with the times who knows.
My college polytech in brooklyn NY had a big deal with id numbers. The president of the school send a memo to all departement that grades are no longer to be posted on the walls because they displayed students id numbers. Right now there is a secure portal website that we can use to access our grades so its no longer a problem.

I am a prof at a university that has switched to student IDs publicly, though the background system is still SSN driven.

I was disturbed to discover that I have the power, through the academic advisor software, to find the SSN of any student on campus!

The only solace is that it is a counterintuitive, poorly constructed, and only marginally useful software package, so not too many people are using it.

I had no idea there was another kind of software available.

The university counsel for the University of North Carolina in Greensboro has a good short FAQ on the law on Universities using SSNs:

“A student just refused to give me her social security number for identification purposes. Is she within her rights”

Yes, she probably is. In 1974 Congress enacted Public Law 93-759, “the federal Privacy Act of 1974”, (codified as 5 U.S.C. § 552a) which placed severe limitations on the use which can be made of social security numbers by state and local governmental agencies. Specifically, the Act specified that no governmental agency could deny to any individual any right, benefit or privilege provided by law because of the individual’s refusal to disclose his or her social security number.

“Are there any exceptions?”

Yes,if the disclosure requirement is imposed under a law or regulation which existed prior to the effective date of the Act, (1 January 1975) the requirement is legal. This would include motor vehicle (DMV) records and payroll records (for purposes of deducting social security benefits and for other tax deductions). Also exempted are disclosures required under federal law, e.g. for obtaining federal financial aid.

“But we use social security numbers as the student’s identification number and on lots of other records on campus as well. Are we breaking the law?”

Not as long as we make it clear that disclosure is voluntary and that refusal to give the social security number will not result in denial of admission or other benefits. We are also required by the Act to tell the student what use we are going to make of the social security number. It would be a good idea to make a written record of that disclosure and have the student sign it. Incidentally, this procedure is also required by Administrative Memorandum Number 172, issued by President William Friday on August 23, 1982. A copy of that document is available on request from my office.

Source: http://www.uncg.edu/cha/UNIVERSITY_COUNSEL/FAQ/SSN.html

Excellent SSN FAQ: http://www.cpsr.org/cpsr/privacy/ssn/ssn.faq.html

BOGUS! I’ve complained about this to Blue Cross numerous times, they’ve been hearing it for 10 years from me. They never change, though. And if you don’t give it, you don’t get insurance. Don’t know how they get away with it. Probably by saying you don’t have to buy THEIR insurance, you can buy someone else’s.

Yeah, right - at today’s prices?

Just filled ouy some bluecross papers for insurance myself, 6 pages worth, on each page they asked for my SS number, and on each page I just made one up, the same one I have been making up for everything I ever fill out. Other that IRS forms and the like. But I even went as far as to apply for credit cards with a phony one as well. In most cases they give me the credot card also. So, if it is just that they are asking you for a number to identify you with, use your old number and swap a few digits around like I do, I dont think there is any harm in it, and in the end, if you get busted, just say ooops, im a little dyslexic

      • The local college I go to uses SSN as your student ID also, it has to be on every piece of paper you sign or send anywhere. You can pay a couple bucks for an actual student ID card that has another number, if you want to avoid the SSN issue, but most people (me included) don’t bother.
  • A couple years ago the Missouri state drivers license number was your social security number, so if you were a resident you ended up giving it out often. I think they changed that though, and switched to another number system. - DougC

I’m in the same boat as racinchikki. I have to give out my SSN to any university employee I interact with.

I have an email account through my undergrad alumni association, and they recently made some changes to the service. I was supposed to get a PIN via email, and since I didn’t receive anything I sent them an email. I got a response from a domain I’ve never seen demanding the following: my graduating class year, degree information, home address, and Social Security number. A bit much for an email service, don’t you think? I refused to give them the information, so they’re refusing to give me my PIN.