Social Security Numbers:

Transfers and Sales of Public Records That May Contain Social Security Numbers (GAO-08-1004SP, September 2008), an E-supplement to GAO-08-1009R

GAO-08-1004SP: Published: Sep 19, 2008. Publicly Released: Sep 19, 2008.

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Daniel Bertoni
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Various public records in the United States contain Social Security numbers (SSNs) and other personal identifying information that could be used to commit fraud and identity theft. In recent years, record keepers in some localities have been maintaining electronic images of their records that can be easily transferred to other parties in bulk quantities or made available through the Internet. To learn more about the availability and use of these records, GAO conducted a study to determine the extent, reasons, and to whom records that may contain SSNs are available in bulk and online; as well as measures taken to protect SSNs that may be contained in these records. Specifically, we surveyed a sample of county record keepers, including those from 97 of the counties with the largest populations, and a random selection of 150 of the remaining counties. We obtained a response rate of 88.9 percent. A more detailed discussion of our scope and methodology is contained in our report "Social Security Numbers: Social Security Numbers are Widely Available in Bulk and Online Records, but Changes to Enhance Security are Occurring" GAO-08-1009R (Washington, D.C.: September 19, 2008). This e-publication supplements our report by presenting the item by item results of our web-based survey of county record keepers. We administered the survey from March through May 2008 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives.

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