2002-09-14 / Community

Social Security To Safeguard Numbers

The Social Security Administration is taking new steps to make it more difficult to steal, counterfeit or misuse Social Security numbers.

Jo Anne Barnhart, Commissioner of Social Security, said, "For several years now, our agency has been working to strengthen the process for issuing Social Security numbers and cards. But concerns about national security, along with the growing problem of identity theft, have caused us to accelerate our efforts."

Social Security’s efforts to protect the integrity of the Social Security number include:

  • no longer issuing a Social Security number and card to non-citizens who need it just to apply for a driver’s license;
  • testing an online system for employers to verify the names and Social Security numbers of newly hired employees;
  • verifying with state agencies all birth records submitted by U.S.-born citizens age one or older who apply for a Social Security number; and
  • verifying with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) all immigration documents for noncitizens who request a Social Security number.

"We know that these initiatives may mean a delay in getting a Social Security number for some citizens and noncitizens," Barnhart said. "However, these actions are necessary to ensure the integrity of the number and help ensure that only those who should receive a number do so."

Commissioner Barnhart noted that her agency is working closely with the states and with INS to minimize delays and to issue Social Security numbers to noncitizens legally eligible for one immediately upon entry into the U.S.

"I want the American people to know that our recent initiatives are designed to make Social Security numbers less accessible to those with criminal intent," Barnhart said.

"They will prevent individuals from using false or stolen birth records or immigration documents to obtain a number. And, most importantly, they will help to ensure the integrity of the Social Security number for everyone."

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