Holly Ramer of the Associated Press has a fascinating story on how our government is contributing to credit problems for some Americans because of our relationship to the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Republic of Palau. It seems that each of them issue their own Social Security Numbers, and our government agencies accept those numbers for transactions between our government and their citizens — even if those numbers are already in use.
For instance, the Federal Emergency Management Agency sent $20 million to 9,700 people in the Federated States of Micronesia after the 2002 storm. The three countries together have received USDA housing grants and loans worth $33 million since 2000.
Some federal agencies collect locally-issued Social Security numbers from grant and loan applicants and report them to credit bureaus as if they were U.S. numbers, regardless of whether the numbers already are in use.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has known for years that it creates “overlapping” Social Security numbers when granting loans in the three island nations, said Donald Etes of the agency’s rural development office in Hawaii. The office that processes loans is working on a fix, but there have been no software or policy changes yet, he said.
It turns out that Social Security numbers in two of the three Pacific Island nations don’t even have nine digits like U.S. numbers. They have eight, but some U.S. computers automatically add a zero to the front to fill in the blank.
Read more via The Chicago Tribune.