Local man shares Social Security number

January 12, 2009 7:23:32 PM PST
Our Social Security number is something that should stay with us our entire lifetime. So when a Belmont man found nine other people had the same number as he did, he called 7 On Your Side.

Rick Naff felt like a big part of his life had been ripped away from him. But his biggest fear of course has been identity theft.

Rick Naff couldn't believe what he was hearing.

"I'm like what, I didn't know that, no one had ever told me I had a problem with that," said Naff.

The state told him it couldn't verify his Social Security number because other people were using it. His wife works in human resources, so she did a background check on her husband.

"And when I did, I was really shocked at how many names came up under his," said Patty Naff.

Nine people in all -- and many of them had interesting histories.

"Driving under the influence, possession of marijuana, assault and battery. All using my social security number -- different names, but my social," said Rick Naff.

The Federal Trade Commission says Social Security numbers are too often listed on public records, and can also be obtained illegally through hacking, phishing, even dumpster diving.

"We do know that identity theft continues to be a major problem. Millions of consumers have been victimized. And the social security number plays a big role in those cases of theft," said Federal Trade Commission Attorney Christopher Olsen.

"I think this is a lesson to everyone to be very, very careful. But being careful is not enough," said Rick Naff.

That's why the FTC in a report to Congress wrote a series of recommendations. The biggest one is to: "Strengthen the methods businesses authenticate new and existing customers."

"Our focus is more on insuring thieves cannot make use of the social security number when they obtain it," said Olsen.

The Commission believes: "Stronger authentication would make it more difficult for criminals to use stolen information -- including SSN's to impersonate consumers."

Among the other recommendations:

Restrict the display of and transmission of Social Security numbers.

  • Establish national standards for data protection.
  • Educate both businesses and consumers.
  • Share best practices.

    "What can we do? Can we clear this? Can we stop this? Because I know this is a bigger problem than anyone realizes," said Patty Naff.

    The honest answer IS Rick's Social Security number may always be used by someone else.

    Authorities suspect someone may be selling his Social Security number to others. But 7 On Your Side put him in touch with the Federal Trade Commission and the district attorney.

    He's done the following:

  • File a complaint with local authorities. Now his name will be added to a state wide data base of identity theft victims.
  • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission so he can be included on a national data base.
  • File for a credit freeze with the three credit bureaus and monitor his credit.

    In addition, he's going to monitor his Social Security account, contact the IRS so he doesn't get dinged for someone's else's taxes and file complaints with DA's in every county where he's been victimized.

    Rick knows this is a lot of work. But he'll have the peace of mind knowing he's doing everything he can to protect himself

    Related Links:

  • Federal Trade Commission recommendations
    What to do if you are a victim:
  • Frequently asked questions
  • IRS and identity theft