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Whether we’re talking about retirement or verifying work eligibility, the gold standard has been your Social Security number.

But, it turns out, it isn’t very unique at all. A new survey of Social Security numbers shows that for a number of reasons, you may share the same number as someone else.

What are the odds? About one in seven

Since John Sweeny got the first Social Security number in 1937, we have all assumed our number was as singular as a fingerprint. And no one would get our Social Security checks when the time came.

A San Diego firm called ID Analytics, who specialize if protection against identity theft, did a survey of social security and found that more than 20-million Americans share a Social Security number.

“Pretty much everybody knows that there is a problem,” says Steve Coggeshall of ID Analytics. “But we were surprised at the magnitude of the problem…the number of people who have these multiple socials attached to them.”

Over 40-million numbers have multiple users.

6% of Americans have more than one number.

100-thousand have 5 or more Social Security numbers associated with their name.

27-thousand numbers are associated with 10 or more people.

The primary reasons are simple clerical errors, bad data entry or just carelessness.

But many are also the result of fraud. “It is our belief that roughly 20% of these instances are deliberate fraud,” Coggeshall says.

It makes employment systems like E-Verify a little more iffy than first thought. But ID analytics feels the biggest problem is not with Uncle Sam…it’s in the private sector.

The company offers a free site to assess your risk of identity theft. This is the web address…

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