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Cybersecurity-Month_2020-NE20-048-650

Your Social Security Number is your key. Don’t hand it out.

by Jeff Gross, contributing writer

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month. Launched in 2004 by the National Cyber Security Alliance & the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. It’s a good time to review protecting your Social Security Number (SSN). Each year there is a different theme addressing specific challenges and identifying opportunities for behavioral change. The theme for Cybersecurity Awareness Month 2020 is “Do Your Part. #BeCyberSmart. The theme empowers individuals and organizations to own their role in protecting their part of cyberspace, with a particular emphasis on the key message for 2020: “If you connect it, protect it.”  If everyone does their part – implementing stronger security practices, raising community awareness, educating vulnerable audiences or training employees – our interconnected world will be safer and more resilient for everyone. 

Years ago, this writer mentioned that an ex-girlfriend embedded a fishing lure into his skull. The lure removal was done at Northern Lights Hospital in Waterville, Maine. Upon entering the hospital one of the items the staff asked for was my Social Security Number. That wasn’t happening! A tense exchange ensued but the SSN was never provided.

Fast forward to 3 days ago when a letter came in the mail from Northern Lights Hospital that their data system was hacked. All sorts of personal information were obtained during the breach. Northern Lights strongly urged me to monitor with the credit reporting agencies. Standing my ground with the hospital 7 years ago turned out to be a blessing in disguise. My SSN was not in the system.

That is the reason behind this article. 

Years ago, the state of Massachusetts would apply your SSN to everything, from drivers’ licenses, sales tax ID’s etc. After a large number of people experienced identity theft Massachusetts removed it from drivers’ licenses. No state in the eastern seaboard uses the SSN this way – anymore. Making matters worse the sales tax ID must be displayed to the general public if you are doing business as a vendor. Anyone with a camera or a good memory can steal it! It took contacting numerous Massachusetts politicians to have the SSN removed from the sales tax ID.  The Massachusetts Department of Revenue would not give in willingly. After a lengthy battle, they finally made the change.  

This writer is a sub-contractor for Fidelity Investments. In order to obtain a badge to enter the building one must undergo a Background Check. A SSN is required for a background check. Again, I resisted giving my SSN, but this time I was forced to do it. Turns out all people involved with any type business with investment companies or banks etc. must provide their SSN as they are literally examined under a magnifying glass. This background check requirement is a result of the Patriot Act of Oct 26, 2001.

Today, unless you work for a brokerage firm, member of the military, obtaining a loan or conducting banking business, or other financial business, the only other agency you must provide you SSN to is the Tax man. Any other business can ask for it, but you can deny giving it to them.

That means all medical institutions have no actual need to possess your number. It is merely a form of control. Another way of keeping tabs on you. Utility companies have no business possessing that number. In fact, all it does is make their jobs easier in tracking you down. Utility companies can obtain all the information they need without said number. An incident occurred years ago with the author and Fall River Gas company. They insisted I give them my SSN after a lengthy debate in which I did not yield, and the manager was summoned, and the issue suddenly became mute as I had the manager dead to rights. Keep that in mind next time you move, and you get a customer service rep with the charm of a DMV employee. Do not be afraid to protect your rights. It’s usually a lack of awareness or education, and you’ll have to be the educator, here. Standing your ground may keep you from having a horrible problem somewhere down the road. So – “Do Your Part. #BeCyberSmart – and be guard your SSN.

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Jeffrey “Jeff” Gross spent 21 years as an Analytical Chemist at the USCG R&D Center in Groton, Connecticut, Woods Hole Laboratories, and Helix Technologies. Changing careers is a “great learning experience for everyone”, Jeff says, and I’m an avid outdoorsman and conservationist, a student of the sciences, and the world. The US holds too many wonders not to take a chance and explore them”.

Jeff is a Model Train and Railroad entrepreneur. Proud Golden Retriever owner. Ultra strong Second Amendment Advocate and Constitutionalist. “Determined seeker of the truth”. 

Jeff is a RIFGPA Legislative officer, Freshwater Chairman, NRA Liaison, FRISC Delegate.

His subjects include Outdoors, Second Amendment, Model Railroading, and Whimsical.