• Allison McMillian

Social Security numbers and why we still use them

We were first introduced to Social Security numbers in 1936 "for the sole purpose" of tracking the earnings history of workers for benefits, according to the Social Security Administration. Until 1972, the card originally said: "FOR SOCIAL SECURITY PURPOSES -- NOT FOR IDENTIFICATION." Now, they are considered a source of ID.

Your whole life is based off that one number. If you let it into the wrong hands, the person who holds it could open bank accounts, request credit cards, and ask for a loan in your name. In more recent years, hackers have obtained the numbers through the U.S. Postal Service, a hospital network, and Anthem health insurance, according to CNN.

If our numbers can get stolen, then why are we not looking for alternatives, like biometric identifiers? "It doesn't matter if it's a new Social Security number or a new national identification system -- whatever that identifier is, it's still going to be the thing that attackers are going after," said Russel Van Tuyl, managing consultant of security assessments at Sword & Shield Enterprise Security.

What do you do if your number is stolen? You should never panic. Just because the number was stolen, doesn't mean your identity was. You should go identitytheft.gov and file an identity theft report. Then, put a freeze or fraud alert on your credit reports. Next, request to close fraudulent accounts. Finally, dispute any fraudulent information on your credit report.

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