Magazine article American Banker

Digital Puzzler: Twin Social Security and Employer Numbers

Magazine article American Banker

Digital Puzzler: Twin Social Security and Employer Numbers

Article excerpt

Some Social Security identification numbers are leading a double life as Internal Revenue Service employer identification numbers.

Apparently, the duplication has caused no harm so far. But it might do so if banks confused such numbers when sending customer information to the Internal Revenue Service, said Bruce Webster, a director at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

"Grandma could suddenly find herself investigated for money laundering because she had $10 million apparently come through her bank account," he said.

The problem seems to have arisen just recently. North Fork Bancorp on New York's Long Island says it spotted three cases of duplicate numbers in its own customer records, but Mr. Webster said he had never heard of such a thing before.

That such cases are uncommon suggests that the IRS and the Social Security Administration have cooperated to avoid duplicating each other's ID numbers, and that their coordination had somehow broken down, Mr. Webster and a North Fork executive said.

An IRS spokesman said the agency did a preliminary check in response to American Banker inquiries and found no other instances of duplicated ID numbers. More are possible, however, the spokesman said.

Though the IRS and Social Security numbers are each nine digits long, they are punctuated differently, he pointed out. Social Security numbers consist of three digits, a dash, two more digits, another dash, and then four more digits. The IRS' employer identification numbers are made up of two digits, a dash, then seven digits. …

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