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More Than 20 Million Americans Have More Than One SSN On Record, Study Says

Data entry errors, falsifications suggest that SSNs might not be effective as unique identifiers
If you're a company -- or a hacker -- who is seeking to associate a Social Security Number with a single individual, then you might have a harder task than you expected.

According to a study published earlier this week by ID Analytics, more than 20 million Americans have multiple Social Security numbers (SSNs) associated with their names in commercial records.

The study also found that rather than serving as a unique identifier, more than 40 million SSNs are associated with multiple people.

ID Analytics examined more than 280 million SSNs to determine discrepancies.

"Our research shows that Social Security numbers, contrary to popular perception, do not uniquely identify an individual," says Stephen Coggeshall, chief technology officer at ID Analytics. "Most of these cases of duplication are likely due to simple data entry errors, as opposed to deliberate falsification. Nevertheless, organizations expose themselves and their customers to risk if they solely rely on the SSN to verify an individual."

More than 6 percent of Americans have at least two SSNs associated with their name, the study says. More than 100,000 Americans have five or more SSNs associated with their name.

More than 15 percent of SSNs are associated with two or more people, according to the study. More than 140,000 SSNs are associated with five or more people. More than 27,000 SSNs are associated with 10 or more people.

While most of the discrepancy is due to data entry errors in business transactions that use SSNs, some duplication is also likely linked to fraud, ID Analytics warns.

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