I have an account at T. Rowe Price. They recently told me I can no longer receive statements via email because of a system glitch. I immediately went online, ensured my account is OK and changed my password. I called and asked for details. Apparently, my Social Security number is identical to a company's tax ID number. Should I be alarmed and take some action or is this problem easily fixed if tax ID numbers are stored with embedded hyphens?
There's no need for alarm. You've already taken the appropriate action by verifying that your account is safe and listed under your correct Social Security number. T. Rowe Price has also taken the right action to ensure your privacy, pending changes to its document storage system.
So how can this happen?
People have Social Security numbers. Companies have Employer Identification Numbers (EINs). All are nine-digit numbers. The key difference is the placement of hyphens. "An EIN is two digits, dash, seven digits," says Jane Zanca, a Social Security Administration spokeswoman. "A Social Security number is three digits, dash, two digits, dash, four digits." It's not impossible for an EIN and a Social Security number to have the same nine-digit sequence, says Zanca, but with the hyphens, they can never be identical.
Unfortunately, T. Rowe Price's current account document system doesn't allow for the use of hyphens to distinguish two tax identification numbers, explains Heather McDonald, a company spokeswoman. "We're working to resolve this issue." Meantime, when clients have the same nine digit tax ID number, the company blocks their online access to account documents. The restriction applies only to documents. They can still safely view their account balances and transactions online.
THE BOTTOM LINE All tax identification numbers contain nine digits. The hyphens distinguish company ID numbers from Social Security numbers.
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