Magazine article Insight on the News

Stupid Is as Stupid Does

Magazine article Insight on the News

Stupid Is as Stupid Does

Article excerpt

Thanks to a hint in an article by Scripps Howard News Service writer John Lang, for the people took a look at the Social Security Administration's, or SSA's Internet site (www.ssa.gov) which, in addition to all sorts of helpful information, has a history page that gives a serious lesson on the many things that can go wrong with Social Security numbers.

The most misused Social Security number of all time was 078-05-1120. It belonged to a woman named Hilda Whitcher, who worked as a secretary to Douglas Patterson, an executive at E.H. Ferree Co., a wallet manufacturer.

When Social Security cards first were issued in 1936, they were not a familiar device and nobody knew quite what to do with them or how they might be misused. So in 1938 Whitcher's boss thought it would be an exceedingly clever idea to show potential customers how the cards could be displayed in the wallets he manufactured.

When he came up with the idea, Patterson used Whitcher's actual number and inserted a replica Social Security card in the popular wallets then sold by stores all over the country. …

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