ID Analytics: 40 million Social Security numbers associated with more than one person

As a young mom, Joanna Rivera is just starting out in life. Her name is already tarnished though.

"I can't buy a car. I can't start credit," Rivera explained.

Figuring out why has been hard to crack.

"It affects my whole life," Rivera explained.

It started with a strange phone call to her mom.

"She was saying your daughter stole my identity," Rivera recalls of the phone conversation.

A clue -- dismissed at first.

"I thought she was crazy," Rivera said.

But later that call made sense when Rivera's tax return was rejected.

"I thought of identity theft at first," Rivera said.

Then she remembered that phone call, and pieced together this puzzle.

"My name is Joanna. Her name is Joannie," Rivera said.

Similar sounding names for two babies born on the same day in Florida. One in West Palm Beach, and the other in Jacksonville.

"I can't believe it happened," Rivera said.

The government gave both babies the same Social Security number.

"They shouldn't make mistakes like this," Rivera said.

But via Skype, Dr. Stephen Coggeshall of ID Analytics explained that the Social Security Administration is just as vulnerable to data entry mistakes as anyone else. He said it's a common occurrence outside the SSA as well.

"There are honest mistakes where Social Security numbers get mixed up in data systems," Coggeshall explained.

ID Analytics found 40 million Social Security numbers associated with multiple people. These mistakes have lasting effects.

"I think it's going to be a struggle for a while," Rivera explained.

It's a mistake the government wouldn't admit or fix until the Consumer Watchdog told Rivera to call her Congressman.

"It wasn't until I did that they contacted me immediately," Rivera said.

The Social Security Administration said it was a mistake made in 1990 by the hospitals that created the Social Security record for two babies with similar first names, the same last name, and same date of birth.

The acknowledgement by the Social Security Administration finally ends a 25-year mystery.

"It kind of was a relief, but it was kind of I told you so," Rivera explained.

Rivera is starting over with a new Social Security number.

The best way to spot something like this is to check your credit report. You can do it for free at AnnualCreditReport.com. There are three credit agencies, and if you check one agency every four months through AnnualCreditReport.com you can keep tabs on your credit year round. Or you can check all three agencies at once for your yearly checkup.
 

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