Social Security Administration Correspondence Containing Full Social Security Numbers

Date: 
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
Report Number: 
A-04-15-50070
Report Type: 
Audit Report
Office Affiliation: 

We issued this report to assess the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) use of Social Security numbers (SSN) on external correspondence and the potential risks associated with such use.

The SSN was created in 1936 to allow employers to identify, and accurately report, an individual’s earnings covered under the Social Security program so SSA could efficiently administer benefits. However, the SSN has since become one of the keys to identifying records used by Federal agencies, State and local governments, and private organizations.

In 2007, the Office of Management and Budget issued a memorandum requesting that Federal agencies review the unnecessary collection and use of SSNs. Specifically, the memorandum states that agencies should protect personally identifiable information in the Government’s possession and avoid its breach.

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America. Someone illegally using another’s SSN and assuming a false identity can cause many problems. SSA acknowledges that one of the ways a thief may get SSNs is by stealing mail.