We've all referenced our social security number as a form of identification. The truth is that the social security number is totally misused for identity. It was created in 1936 to record worker wages. Over time, it has evolved into a distorted 'identifier' by organizations who likely weren't considering the exposure of personally identifiable information. This timeline shows the distorted evolution of the social security number:
1936 - The Number Goes ‘Social’
The first Social Security card was issued in 1936. The purpose: to track worker earning histories and determine benefits.
1938 - The Most Misused SSN
Two years later, a wallet manufacturer inserted a “fake” card into one of their wallets. The card bore the very real number of the secretary of the wallet company’s vice president. More than 40,000 people have since used the number as their own..
1970s - A Wake-Up Call
As the SSN evolved into a form of ID (because a number is more precise than a name), a government report on SSNs and privacy recognized the role of SSNs in identity theft - a term that handn't been invented yet. The report recommended limiting the use of SSNs.
2007 - The ID Theft Weapon of Choice
The General Accountability Office declared that “SSNs (have become) a key piece of information used to create false identities for financial misuse.” In 2007, the FTC said, approximately 8.3 million Americans were victims of some form of ID theft.
The 2010s - The Hacking Decade
Social Security numbers became the favorite target of hackers. A 2015 breach at health insurer Anthem exposed the SSNs of 80 million people, while a 2015 hack at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management resulted in 21.5 million SSNs stolen.
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