• FOX13 Investigates: How to stop your Social Security Number from being sold online

    By: Jim Spiewak


    Memphis, TN - Websites are making it easy and cheap for someone else to take your social security number.  It opens up a whole new avenue for crooks to steal a person's identity. 

    There's little surprise left these days with what the world wide web can offer.  “These types of websites are not illegal on their face,” said attorney Caren Nichol. 

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    We showed her the website peopleinfofind.org, which offers a legal and guaranteed way to find someone's social security number as long as they have a valid purpose.  

    The site suggests good reasons are debt recovery, child support or a forgotten social security number. 

    “Absent for tax purposes or signing up for a government benefit there really is no reason for anybody to need your social security number,” Nichol said when asked what a valid reason is for someone to ask for another person’s number? 

    Our investigation uncovered to get a social security number, all a person needs someone else’s name, date of birth and $250. Information people willingly share on social media. 

    “It's not illegal to possess somebody else's social security, but it is illegal to possess it in order to attempt to steal your identity or obtain some financial gain from that” said Nichol. 

    We couldn't find out much about peopleinfofind.org, so we asked the Better Business Bureau what they knew.

    “It’s hard to tell where they really are” said Memphis chapter head Randy Hutchinson adding “just the whole premise of what this particular outfit says they do seems a little suspicious.” 

    We traced the company to a virtual address in Delaware. 

    We found they haven't been properly incorporated since 2014.  Good luck trying to contact them, no one answers the phone, at least over the several weeks we tried calling. 

    “Just be real suspicious, check them out you can check the companies out with us at google them sometimes” adds Hutchinson. 

    But there are ways to stay protected.  Remove personal information, like your birthday and full name from social media sites. 

    Safety experts say that makes it more difficult for strangers to put together all the pieces of our identity puzzle.  “You do not need to give your social security number to people” Nichol said. 

    So just think twice the next time the doctor's office or an online form asks.  Safety experts said it's not just this site, there are many of them out there.

    They were originally designed for licensed private investigators to legally get information. 

    Now that they know about it, the BBB is keeping a close watch on this kind of activity locally. 

    The Social Security Administration said, “all citizens should be aware of websites that advertise the sale of “replacement Social Security numbers.” These websites might convey a false connection to the Social Security Administration, but these operations and the numbers they sell are not legitimate.”

    Here is the full statement from the Social Security Administration:

    The Social Security Administration protects your Social Security number and keeps your records confidential.  We don’t give your number to anyone, except when authorized by law.  You should be careful about sharing your number, even when you’re asked for it.  You should ask why your number is needed, how it will be used, and what will happen if you refuse.   We are--and always have been--vigilant about protecting the privacy of information we maintain in our records.  We encourage everyone to be careful with their Social Security Number and their card.  Keep the number and card in a safe place.

    Visit www.identitytheft.gov to report identity theft and get a recovery plan.  It is a one-stop resource managed by the Federal Trade Commissioner, the nation’s consumer protection agency.  You can also call 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338, TTY 1-866-653-4261)

    Social Security’s Office of the Inspector General offered the following advice:

    First, all citizens should be aware of websites that advertise the sale of “replacement Social Security numbers.” These websites might convey a false connection to the Social Security Administration, but these operations and the numbers they sell are not legitimate.

    Second, Social Security numbers sold on these websites generally are stolen Social Security numbers, so all citizens must be vigilant and protect their personal information. Parents, especially, should take every precaution to protect their children’s personal information and Social Security numbers. Citizens should:

    • Secure all paper and electronic records that display your or your child’s personal information
    • Avoid sharing your or your child’s Social Security number unless you know and trust the party requesting the information.
    • Shred/destroy documents with your or your child’s personal information, don’t just throw those documents in the trash.
    • Use the alert and freeze options offered the credit reporting companies to notify you of suspicious activity or unauthorized activity.
    • Remain vigilant of events that put your personal information at risk. For example, you might lose a wallet or purse with personal information, or there might be a break-in at your home, doctor’s office, or child’s school where your personal information could be compromised.

     - Patti Patterson, Regional Communications Director


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