The Social Security Number (SSN) Protection Act of 2010, created to help keep social security numbers more private, was signed into law by President Obama in December of 2010.
The law originated in the Senate, where it passed unanimously after being researched by the Senate Finance Committee. The House of Representatives approved the bill by a voice vote a couple of months after it was introduced.
The SSN Protection Act of 2010 was written by the Congressional Research Service—part of the Library of Congress that does not have partisan affiliations, meaning that they are neither Democrat nor Republican. There were no amendments to the law once it reached the House of Representatives and Senate, so it's fairly straightforward.
What Is the Social Security Number Protection Act?
In a nutshell, the law applies to Federal, state, and local agencies. It prohibits these agencies from displaying a social security number or part of a social security number on any check that is issued for payment by that agency.
The law also prohibits Federal State or local agencies from entering into a contract to use prisoners in any capacity that would allow them to have access to social security numbers of other individuals.
Most consumers think this is just common sense. But state and local agencies have been known to print social security numbers on checks to make sure they’re being cashed by the people the agency intended to give the money to. And small municipalities are prone to using prisoners on work release programs to do heavy lifting, which often includes cases of files containing information about employees, contractors, victim assistance, ongoing cases, and virtually any other individuals the government has a need to work with.
The law does not clarify whether or not these covered agencies are allowed to use individuals in community service.
Why Was the Social Security Number Protection Act Created?
The Social Security Number Protection Act of 2010 was created in response to growing concerns about identity theft and fraud. While people's names and addresses may change over time, social security numbers are tied to individuals throughout the entire length of their lives without changing. For this reason, they are often used for identification purposes.
However, this makes social security numbers an easy target for fraudsters and cybercriminals. According to the Social Security Administration, identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes in America, and a thief who obtains your social security number can do a lot of damage. They may open lines of credit in your name and refuse to pay, hurting your credit history. They could claim your tax refund or other benefits you're owed.
It's best to keep your social security number confidential and out of the hands of potential criminals. The SSN Protection Act of 2010 was meant to be an additional safeguard against this possibility.
What Is the Social Security Number Protection Act of 2011?
This law is not to be confused with the Social Security Number Protection Act of 2011 (S.1275) which was introduced in the Senate six months later.
This bill focuses more on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), requiring the implementation of procedures that will eliminate the unnecessary collection, use, and display of social security account numbers on Medicare identification cards and communications from HHS to Medicare beneficiaries and providers.
Additionally, the SSN Protection Act of 2011 has language that prohibits the use of a social security card to store information electronically, which is something that has not yet happened.
However, unlike the SSN Protection Act of 2010, this law was never enacted.