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Social Security Mailbox

Removing Your SSN From Bank Statements

Lobby your bank to drop the number

Q. I just noticed that my Social Security number is now included on my bank statement as a part of the entry for my direct deposit of benefits. I'm concerned about this but my bank tells me they have no control over it. Can you tell me how I can get this personal identification removed?

A. You're right to be concerned. If your bank statement were to go astray in the mail, your Social Security number could fall into the hands of someone who might use it to commit identity theft.

Your bank says it has no control, but I can tell you that in surveying five major banks, I did not find any that listed full Social Security numbers alongside the deposits. Most used a simple "U.S. Treasury" or "Soc. Sec." designation by the entries. In one case, a bank listed the last four digits of the person's number.

So you should try again to persuade your bank to change the computer software that generates its monthly statements. Getting agreement to do this may be difficult, however, because software changes are costly and federal law does permit banks to use the Social Security numbers of their customers for business purposes.

If your bank won't budge, you can transfer your account to one that doesn't use the numbers this way. As a last resort, you could ask Social Security to discontinue your direct deposit and instead credit your monthly money to a Direct Express debit card. This card would allow you to get cash at ATMs and financial institutions nationwide, as well as pay bills and make purchases.

Stan Hinden, a former columnist for The Washington Post, wrote How to Retire Happy: The 12 Most Important Decisions You Must Make Before You Retire. Have a question for the Social Security Mailbox? Check out the archive. If you don't find your answer there, send a query.

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Tim Summers WY Senior State Director about the importance of the Social Security to rural America.

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