When Debtors Share SSNs

August 13, 2023


I am not a lawyer, I am a Judgment Broker. This article is my opinion, and not legal advice, based on my experience in California, and laws vary in each state. If you ever need any legal advice or a strategy to use, please contact a lawyer.

In my job, I see proof that many American judgment debtors are sharing their Social Security Numbers (SSNs), especially in California and Arizona; and especially those who have immigrated to the US.

This surprised me, because all my life, I have read that sharing a SSNs was problematic and/or dangerous, and one could be punished for doing so. It seems there is no punishment for the typical person who cooperatively shares their SSN with other people.

As far as I know, getting SSNs are free. Why would anyone want to share their SSN? Possible reasons are to try to evade judgment creditors, and to try to stay “off the grid”. I imagine that most people that share SSNs are paid, and pay; with cash.

Mostly because of strong taxation and hassles for businesses, and the anti-drug, anti-gambling, anti-prostitution, and other soft-crime laws; there are vast underground economies that tend to not pay taxes, and operate mostly on a cash basis, that sometimes provide income for many who live “off the grid”. I would not be surprised if welfare, food stamps, social security payments, and disability payments are still paid, after the entities learn that a person shares their SSN.

Of course, one reason SSNs are shared is for immigration purposes. Some use other people’s SSNs to get a job. When they do this without the knowledge of the person who was first issued the SSN, they can shortchange themselves, by paying into social security for years but not getting any credit for it. Social Security funding is probably augmented by illegal aliens.

What are the disadvantages of sharing your SSN? It seems the downsides are mostly for the people who get or expect pensions, paychecks, or social security payments; and are “on the grid”, paying taxes, etc. For those on the grid, someone else sharing their SSN could be a form of identity theft. For those on the grid, there seems to be little benefit to sharing a SSN.

Usually, a person’s SSN is not something shared with typical third-parties. However, when a person does something to cause a judgment to be entered against them, the judgment creditor, or the assignee of record, has the right to learn their SSN for the sole purpose of trying to recover their judgment by, for example, hiring a Sheriff to levy the bank account or the wages of their judgment debtor.

When a judgment debtor shares their SSN, it can make it difficult for judgment owners, private investigators, and data services, to find the correct judgment debtor. Banks and employers use SSNs to verify and uniquely identify the correct person. When a judgment debtor shares their SSN, paying to find out where they work, can generate a lot of false hits.

What has happened to some judgment owners, is when they have a judgment debtor (e.g., Dan Debtor), and pay a service or a private investigator to learn Dan Debtor’s SSN, and they find out that Dan Debtor shares his SSN with many other people in the same city. When Dan Debtor shares his SSN, it can make it more difficult for judgment owners to have Dan’s assets levied.

In these days of extra privacy protection, only part of a judgment debtor’s social security number is allowed on (e.g.) abstracts of judgments. When a partial SSN matches many (exact same) common names in a county, that can cause confusion and mistaken identity, if not a hassle, for some non-debtor person with the same common name.

The combination of sharing SSNs and restricting access to full SSNs, can make judgment enforcement more difficult, however not impossible. Restricting SSNs is a result of concerns about privacy and protection, however SSN protection is not a guarantee of any real privacy or protection.

A SSN is the most convenient identity method for a levy or a lien, however it is not always necessary. When one needs to confirm that they have the correct judgment debtor, this can be done with addresses and/or ages, etc. Having the judgment debtor’s SSN is by far, the best way, and the best way to know for sure, the bankruptcy situation of common-named judgment debtors.

With data services, even when a SSN is truncated, you still can search by name and address, and find exactly the same judgment debtor. Even when there are limitations on a business, one can learn to legally work around most of them. That is a secret in life, what the world throws at you is not the important thing, how you react to it and take action is the important thing.

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