It's understandable that banks and credit unions need our social security numbers when we open accounts. Unfortunately, many banks overuse social security numbers for things like customer identification. For example, customer service reps will often ask for social security numbers when you call for account issues. This can increase the risk of identity theft.
I mentioned this issue in a 2011 blog post that reviewed a Javelin Strategy & Research report. Javelin released a new report, and it has found some improvements. In 2011, Javelin found that all of the 25 largest banks in its survey were using social security numbers in some way for customer identification. Javelin’s latest study shows a little improvement. According to this NYT Bucks blog article:
This year, five banks reported that they now prohibit their use — an improvement, the report said, but still “distressingly low.”
The five that reported prohibiting the use of the numbers are Comerica, Regions Bank, TD Bank, U.S. Bank and Union Bank. The country’s biggest banks, including JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America and Citibank, still use Social Security numbers, according to the report.
I find it interesting to see that Regions Bank is on the list of banks that are now prohibiting the use of social security numbers. I called Regions this week regarding its checking account promotion. Even though I’m not customer and was not trying to open an account, the Regions CSR asked me for my social security number after she asked me for my name. I was annoyed at being asked for the number, and of course, I declined to give it. So it appears Regions is still using social security numbers to identify customers. Perhaps it’s no longer their official policy, but that doesn’t mean the CSRs are following the policy.
Another common issue is when banks require social security numbers of beneficiaries of bank accounts. I described this issue in the 2011 blog post.
Have you experienced banks or credit unions overusing social security numbers?