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Beware of newspapers trawling for Social Security numbers (SSANs)!

September 7 2007 at 4:43 AM
JCG  (no login)

'The Times-Picayune' is at it again: running a weekly football forecast contest in which, according to the fine print of the rules, to collect monetary prizes, winners must appear in person and provide the "contest manager" with personal data including their SSANs.

I do not know of any legitimate reason for that requirement. Production of one's SSAN cannot be required for identification - for that would violate federal social security and privacy laws. Nor can it be for any fiscal purpose; for the newspaper's rules also state that payment of any taxes on prizes will be the winner's sole responsibility.

Some years ago, the T-P actually printed entry forms for this annual contest with a space for the entrant's SSAN. I was one of a number of people who badgered the newspaper about that appalling practice, which has since been dropped; but the requirement for winners to give out their SSAN still appears in the rules.

I tried to reach intelligent life at the paper by telephone to question the SSAN requirement; but was met with hostile evasion when I asked why the SSAN was required and how the privacy of the SSAN and other personal data collected by the contest manager would be safeguarded.

The spokesweasel whom I reached on the telephone became quite agitated when I enquired about the identity of the "contest manager"; and (perhaps I went too far; but I couldn't resist!) actually slammed down the receiver when asked whether the contest manager responsible for collecting and safeguarding SSANs had a criminal record.

 
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