The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has released a report on Social Security Numbers (SSNs) and their correlation with Identity Theft. The report, which can be downloaded here [PDF], is a follow-up to a 2007 workshop on the same topic and the continued work of the President’s Identity Theft Task Force that was established in May 2006.
In the report, the FTC makes 5 recommendations to reduce the role of SSNs in identity theft. One of the recommendations is that Congress take action to strengthen procedures that private-sector organizations use to authenticate identities; they are pushing for nationwide standards in authentication. The task force believes that stronger authenticaton would make it more difficult for criminals to use stolen information, SSNs included, to impersonate consumers. As the report notes:
“Identity theft continues to be a major problem in this country, with victims numbering in the millions each year and out-of-pocket losses (primarily to businesses) in the billions of dollars.”
The Commission’s five recommendations are:
- Improve consumer authentication
- Restrict the public display and the transmission of SSNs
- Establish national standards for data protection and breach notification
- Conduct outreach to businesses and consumers
- Promote coordination and information sharing on use of SSNs
The task force believes that better authentication will make it more difficult to use SSNs to open new accounts or access existing accounts or services. They hope that this will, in turn, limit the demand for SSNs by criminals. Currently financial institutions that are federally regulated by banking agencies are the only private companies subjected to nationwide authentication standards.