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Social Sec. Numbers To Be Concealed

August 31, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Seeking to better protect people’s privacy, Social Security numbers will no longer be visible through envelope windows of benefits checks mailed to more than 14 million people.

The Treasury Department said Thursday that the change will begin with September payments.

``By removing Social Security numbers from the window of the mailings of Social Security checks, we will help safeguard the privacy of millions of Americans,″ Gary Gensler, Treasury’s under secretary for domestic finance, said in a statement.

Treasury’s Financial Management Service, which issues the checks, will use check numbers rather than Social Security numbers to identify and retrieve payments that are ineligible for delivery.

Most of the 53 million people receiving Social Security benefits get them electronically, a Treasury spokesman said. That offers a safe and secure means of payment, Treasury said.

Social Security numbers have become both a virtual national ID and a powerful tool for criminals.

The widespread use of Social Security numbers can give people with dishonest intentions easy access to others’ personal records, including financial and medical data, or help criminals assume another person’s identity to obtain credit or government benefits.

During 1999, more than one million ineligible Social Security checks valuing $620 million were removed from mailings, Treasury said.

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