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Ken Tumin founded the Bank Deals Blog in 2005 and has been passionately covering the best deposit deals ever since. He is frequently referenced by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other publications as a top expert, but he is first and foremost a fellow deal seeker and member of the wonderful community of savers that frequents DepositAccounts.

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Fewer Banks Overusing Social Security Numbers


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?

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Anonymous   |     |   Comment #1
It does not surprise me if Regions asked you for your social security number.  My experience with Regions is that different branches have different standards. 
lou   |     |   Comment #2
This topic is very relevant to me. Someone stole my SS and used it to apply for a credit card. Since I belong to numerous banks and credit unions, I have wondered if an employee of one of these institutions is the culprit responsible for this fraudulent act. I will be much more careful in the future disclosing my SS on the phone.
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #3
My mom had her identity stolen by a bank teller years ago.

My pet peeve is the 1099 tax forms that banks mail to you - why do they have your SSN on this paper!

My mailman habitually misdelivers my mail to my neighbors and very often i am missing some of the bank 1099s each year.  Last year, one of my neighbors brought over one of my bank 1099 that he had mistakenly got from my mailman.
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #4
Some of the banks that send me 1099s have started obscuring all but the last four digits of the SSN. Not perfect, and not all of them do it, but it's a start.
emdtech   |     |   Comment #5
What I find ironic - When I called Social Security Administration and ask them if they sanction the use of the SS# as a form of identification, they say it was never intended for that use. Yet, almost every bank, insurance company and many employers use it as such.
Erich Ruth
Erich Ruth   |     |   Comment #7
The IRS does encourage SSN masking.  Instead of mailing 1099 forms with the full SSN exposed, the payer can mask it as XXX-XX-1234. Banks can continue using SSNs, but masking helps.
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #8
> My pet peeve is the 1099 tax forms that banks mail to you - why do they have your SSN on > this paper!

The IRS encourages SSN masking.  You can replace the first 5 digits of a SSN with an X or *.  The site has software which applies SSN masking when you print Copy B of the 1099 forms.

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