Dallas School District Caught Using Random SSNs For Foreign Workers

The Dallas Independent School District has been making up fake Social Security Numbers for foreign hires for years, even after being told in 2004 by the state’s education board to stop because it’s illegal. The numbers were meant to “expedite” the hiring process and get the employees on payroll, but they found their way onto Department of Homeland Security and IRS forms (which are kept in-district but shared with feds upon request), were used for criminal background checks, and in at least 26 cases were numbers in use by real people.

The Dallas Morning News doesn’t mention whether or not the DISD will be contacting the people who have had their SSNs appropriated, but they did offer this detail:

The DISD-issued Social Security numbers began with “200” – a prefix assigned to people in Pennsylvania, and Mr. Phillips’ office noted that many ended with sequential numbers.

In general, though, with the exception of the occasional criminal background check, the fake SSNs were supposedly kept away from any legitimate use, and even if your SSN fits the description above the odds are low anything bad has happened. We’re just amazed at the school district’s monumentally bad judgment.

“Dallas ISD faulted for using fake Social Security numbers” [Dallas Morning News] (Thanks to AttorneyWrangler!)
(Photo: Getty)

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  1. sir_eccles says:

    Hey, that’s the same number I have on my luggage.

  2. bball123h says:

    Everything is fine until the IRS audits you for unreported income.

    Good work Dallas!

  3. Lolotehe says:

    No one who has lived in Dallas any amount of time should be surprised by this.

  4. BluePlastic says:

    What’s wrong with them? They can’t wait until an identification number has been obtained through proper channels? If they thought it was okay, why didn’t those involved volunteer to use their OWN social security numbers?

    • Necoras says:

      @BluePlastic: DISD is full of FAIL. They have been for years. (I live north of Dallas, NOT in that school district thank GOD) Kids don’t have to go to class, turn in homework, pass tests, or basically even BREATHE to pass. They had an $80 MILLION budget deficit this year, so they laid off hundreds of teachers… then rehired a few dozen because they’d fired too many. Oh, and a few years ago the teachers had anonymous debit cards and there was a $1 million a year deficit there too. DISD SUCKS. SOOO glad I don’t live in Dallas County.

      • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

        @Necoras: “so they laid off hundreds of teachers… then rehired a few dozen because they’d fired too many.”

        This is actually not an unusual practice. Young/New teachers often get “laid off” and “rehired” in districts with budget issues (or in recessionary times when everyone’s budget is an issue).

        It’s when they start borrowing to make teacher payroll that they’ve really screwed the pooch.

        (My district suffers from a similar level of fail as DISD, though on a smaller scale. But it’s like we kind-of want to grow up to be DISD.)

    • Ragman says:

      @BluePlastic: Dude, when I moved to a town north of Dallas in the late nineties, the freaking DISD was on the news almost EVERY night. Like some screwed up soap opera that is fighting to stay on the air. Considering the money they’ve wasted over the past decade, I’m surprised it took this long to bite them in the a$$.

      DISD is full of EPIC FAIL.

  5. Pious_Augustus says:

    Basically the Democratic Party supports illegal immirgrants stealing others SS cards which they then get credit cards and can ruin your credit but yeah go figure a lot of people didn’t respond to this one

    • valsharess1 says:

      @Pious_Augustus: What does this have to do with the democratic party? This comment makes no sense.

      • Necoras says:

        @valsharess1: Actually, most of the recent problems in Dallas county started about a decade ago when democrats took over Dallas county. He has a point, but I don’t think he knows it.

        • mac-phisto says:

          @Necoras: in my experience, i’ve found that on the local level, party affiliation is rather irrelevant. local politicians rarely practice “the platform” of the national parties.

          what is relevant is the knowledge & ability of elected officials. i think if the average citizen realized how inept our elected officials are, there’d be a run on tar and feathers.

    • Mira Mi Huevo!!! says:

      @Pious_Augustus: What amazes me is that ignorant people; like Pious, still manage to come up with crazy blame theories to point fingers at anybody (democrats in this case) when this article has nothing to do with anything even remotely political. Texas is a predominantly a Republican State in which most govermnet offices and school districts are run by conservative right-wing types; therefore, Pious’ comment sounds even more stupid…

      You Go Girl!!!

    • stacye says:
    • stacye says:

      @Pious_Augustus: Wait, this one would work better:

    • oneliketadow says:

      Please fix this moron. This is about the most offtopic crap I’ve seen in a long time.

    • Pamoya says:

      @Pious_Augustus: There are so many things wrong with this comment that I hardly know where to start. First of all, while the Republicans and Democrats might differ on immigration policies, neither party “supports illegal immirgrants stealing others SS cards.” Don’t be ridiculous.
      Second of all, the article talks about foreign workers, not illegal immigrants.
      Third, the foreign workers did not steal any SS cards. From what I can tell of the article, the foreign workers didn’t even have anything to do with the SSNs. The school board made the numbers up, and there is no indication the school board even gave the made up numbers to the workers.
      Fourth, there is no indication that anyone used those SSNs to obtain credit. The worst thing that happened with the SSNs is that someone working for the school district apparently used them to run security checks, believing they were accurate numbers.
      It is completely amazing to me what people will say to demonize foreigners and political opponents.

      What is interesting to me about this article is that a similar situation was going on in Postville at the agriprocessing plant that was raided by immigration this summer. That case involved illegal immigrants rather than legal foreign workers. The processing plant, or some rogue supervisors, gave their new hires made up SSNs to cover up the fact that they were hiring illegal workers. When INS came in and arrested the workers, the *workers* were accused of identity theft so that they could be jailed rather than deported. The workers had not made up the fake SSNs. Almost none of them even knew what an SSN was. No one had used the fake SSNs to take out credit. Instead, the employers were trying to cover up their illegal hiring practices.

  6. midwestkel says:

    What the hell. They make it sound like oh well. Are these people going to get prosecuted?

  7. projoe1979 says:

    Wow. This after losing 65 million and having to fire 600 teachers a month ago… Can I ask that my school property taxes be sent else where?

  8. FLEB says:

    While they shouldn’t be using valid numbers, what kind of half-cocked system would make it so an SS#, devoid of any other valid context, can do anything to anyone besides throw up flags?

    • LostAngeles says:

      @FLEB: No kidding. It’s really not that hard to generate a pseudo-random 9 digit number. In fact, it comes up in basic programming classes. But to start them all with 200…*SIGH*

      If you’re going to commit fraud, do it right, at least.

  9. The_Red_Monkey says:

    Its fraud and they should all be fired over it.

  10. Tank says:

    It makes me sick to know these people are in charge of teaching the children of Dallas. What a great lesson to everyone – if you can’t do something right, make up what you need to hurry it along.

  11. Lucky225 says:

    why don’t they just use 666 instead of 200 which is a valid SSN prefix?

  12. KeeganGwar says:

    I wouldn’t be so quick to point at this as fraud. I went to a school (RIT) that during my freshman year still used SSNs as ID numbers. They assigned alternate ID numbers for foreign students, but those numbers were still in the same xxx-xx-xxxx format as a social security numbers.

    This is all well and good (except that I think it may be illegal to use a SSN as an ID number for this very reason.. at least I think that’s the reason they gave for switching the system after my freshman year) until you start relying on that database field to contain a person’s social security number. Sure, for 90+% of students it does, but what if you’re doing some automated tax form that pulls that data? You can’t assume it’s a SSN, but of course people do.

    So basically instead of having separate ID and SSN fields, they combine them. Very rarely is this a problem.

    • LostAngeles says:

      @KeeganGwar: It’s entirely illegal and the school I went to in CA before transferring up was using SSNs.

    • trk182 says:

      @KeeganGwar: But those were ID#s that just happend to be your SSN and in a SSN format, not Fill in SSN Here _________________ and you put in a fake SSN.

    • Anonymous says:

      Actually, this is not an issue of using them for ID within the school for students. The school was using them for tax purposes. The computer will not allow them to process payroll for a person with a national ID of some sort. The school did not have IDs on these guys so they made them up.

    • m4ximusprim3 says:

      @KeeganGwar: The best way to do this (because I once ran into this problem) is to make the ID number a hash of the SSN (a hash is a number spit out by an equation which is fed another number, but the process can’t go backwards)

      That way, you can reserve a range of hashes for those who don’t have SSN’s. problem solved.

      • scoosdad says:

        @m4ximusprim3: Huh? So you take a nine digit number, run it through the wash, and still end up with a nine digit number, if I’m reading you right.

        The issue here is that even though they were assigning what they thought were random numbers to these foreign workers, that eventually, these fake ID numbers got released into the world and were mistaken for real SSN’s somewhere and those numbers matched up to real people’s SSNs in some database. Never mind that they used 200- as the first three numbers and that corresponds to Pennsylvania residents. Your hashed up fake numbers in most cases would have the same problem unless you avoided using all known “good” SSN prefixes in the output numbers, no?

        It’s like telephone numbers on TV shows and the movies– they always use 555- as the prefix because that prefix is owned and used by the telcos themselves and wouldn’t lead to a private person if someone tried to dial the number on the TV show just for kicks. Dallas should have at least investigated the numbering structure of SSNs to pick a three digit prefix that didn’t show up anywhere in the SSN numbering scheme. Randomizing and hashing a number wouldn’t necessarily avoid the problem

        • m4ximusprim3 says:

          @scoosdad: No, nobody needs a 9 digit ID number. No school district in the world has a billion employees.

          You hash the ssn to a 5 digit number and reserve 00000 through 09999 for manual entry (for situations like people without SSN’s). The SSN is never public, and can never be misused or transferred to a tax form, like it shouldn’t be. You have to eliminate the temptation to use “shortcuts” by denying inacurate information.

      • Anonymous says:

        Real SSN’s don’t start with 8s or 9s. Taxpayer ID numbers start with 9s and are in the same XXX-XX-XXXX format, but it only to be used for paying taxes when you don’t have a valid SSN.

        If you ever find yourself with a system that requires a SSN-like number, you can use numbers that start with 8s and be confident they will not be a real persons SSN.
        @m4ximusprim3:

    • ChuckECheese says:

      @KeeganGwar: Hmmm… using valid but false social security numbers to circumvent employee-vetting processes in order to employ people who wouldn’t qualify for employment without valid SSNs isn’t fraud? Interesting brain you got there.

      Actually, employers will do all sorts of things to get out of following employment laws, in order to hire the cheapest workers and/or their buddies. And when you read “foreign hires” in this post, you should legitimately think “illegal Mexicans.” Dallas is not hiring French-born French teachers who have green card problems.

      Such shenanigans, which are rampant in the south and southwest U.S., are the reason why people from this part of the country want to get very tough on illegal immigration. Employers cannot be trusted to follow the law; other measures are needed.

  13. rick_in_texas says:

    If “Teachers” are hear illegally and using FAKE SSNs (or numbers that don’t belong to them). Then they should be handcuffed and booted from the country just like any other illegal alien.

    Send them home and give the job to an unemployed American teacher.

    Jeez you just fired a bunch of teachers and kept the bilingual ones because the number of illegals in Dallas is going up astronomically. Why not teach existing teachers?

    • donopolis says:

      @rick_in_texas: While I am in no way defending DISD (the single worst school district I have ever heard of), the story makes no mention of illegal aliens. It mentions foreign hires, which is an altogether different thing.

      D-

      • TechnoDestructo says:

        @donopolis:

        Foreign workers without the proper identification numbers, while there may be other situations where that happens, the overwhelming majority of people in that situation are going to be illegal immigrants. I don’t think you can really blame people for assuming that, given how many people nowadays like to tiptoe around the subject.

        [www.irs.gov]

        Is this the number they’re supposed to be getting?

        In what situations would someone be eligible to work in the US AND not have that number? Are they hiring people directly from Mexico? Otherwise, I can’t think of any, but I’m not an expert.

        • m4ximusprim3 says:

          @TechnoDestructo: Teachers are subject to extensive background checks. I’m not denying illegals get lots of jobs, but I don’t think they could be a teacher any more than they could have a security clearance.

    • trk182 says:

      @rick_in_texas: Most if not all the teachers were here on work visas, but DISD was just to lazy to wait the 2 weeks to get SSN’s sent to them.

  14. Hyman Decent says:

    Then they should be handcuffed and booted from the country just like any other illegal alien.

    *ahem*: 500K* illegal immigrants defying deportation orders
    *The article itself gives a figure of 560K

  15. stacye says:

    @trk182: It’s about 50/50

    • freelunch says:

      @stacye: Dallas… as in the actual city of Dallas… is surprisingly left leaning.

      head towards Fort Worth for the Republicans…

      The number of people that live in Texas only for business purposes, or because they were the offspring of an illegal immigrant tend to water down the Republican numbers…. give it another decade and we will be blue.

  16. KernelM says:

    Beyond the other stupidity, I’m wondering just why they used the 200 prefix. There’s actual blocks of SSNs that are guaranteed to not be in use. [en.wikipedia.org]

    • Propaniac says:

      @KernelM: Probably one of the people in charge of making up these numbers was from Pennsylvania so they based the fake number on their own, and then just based additional fake numbers on the first one, or something like that. I wouldn’t really expect the people behind this practice to put in any effort on research.

  17. shorty63136 says:

    Wait – so you’re using FAKE social security numbers to run background checks on TEACHERS??????

    And you wonder WHY people are up in arms about pedophiles in the schools?!?!?!

    This INFURIATES ME! I imagine Dallas is the only one that’s been caught so far – but I doubt that they’re the only one’s using this practice.

    • scoosdad says:

      @shorty63136: No. Please read the article again, this time very slowly. Take a deep breath with fingers off the shift key. :)

      The linked article sums up the problem very clearly at the very end. Here’s their summary:

      •Foreign educators on visas were assigned false Social Security numbers to get them on DISD’s payroll.

      •The foreign employees were instructed to obtain Social Security numbers from the Social Security Administration and report them to the district.

      •The fake numbers were supposed to be used temporarily until real numbers were in place. But some of the fake numbers wound up being sent to the Texas Education Agency when DISD asked TEA to conduct background checks on new hires. Those numbers stayed in the system if DISD didn’t replace them with real Social Security numbers obtained by the employees.

      See the problem now? The foreign-born employees-to-be were assigned numbers that were supposed to substitute for social security numbers in their payroll system, so that they could get paid right away. At some point those fake numbers got mistaken for real ones and were used to conduct background checks on some of the new employees. And since they were, in some cases, real people’s numbers up in Pennsylvania, problems came up for the new teachers if the Pennsylvania holder of that same number might have had a criminal record.

  18. ShariC says:

    This is SOP for the U.S. government when dealing with foreign students. In Japan, if a Japanese citizen wants to attend a college or university on a U.S. military base (which a limited number do), they are issued a fake social security number in order to do so. One of my students has been attending a college with its main campus in Texas and a branch on a base here and she forwarded the message which contained said fake number to me (because she wasn’t clear about what it meant and wanted me to explain it).

    So, I’m guessing what the school did isn’t limited to Texas or even to schools.

  19. BeeBoo says:

    Social security numbers were never meant to be used for identification or for running background checks in the first place. In fact, SS cards used to say something to the effect of “NOT TO BE USED FOR IDENTIFICATION”. Of course, they became a de facto national identity number and they took that wording off.

  20. Julia789 says:

    These were not “illegal aliens” and they do not need to be “deported.” These were foreigners recruited, hired, and brought here by the school district. They have legal work visas to be in this country.

    It was a stupid move to put fake numbers in the payroll system to expedite the process. But that is a problem with the payroll system, and the people running that payroll system. The teachers were here legally, and not at fault.

  21. InsertBullets says:

    As a resident of the neighboring city of Fort Worth I thank god every day that I don’t live in Dallas. The idiots run everything there.

  22. dallasmay says:

    Dude… I teach for Dallas ISD. The whole place is a mess. You can easily see the real problem behind high stakes tests.

    • misslisa says:

      @dallasmay: Oh man…I graduated w/my teaching certif. during Texas’ economic downturn in the 80s. I was unemployed for months. Finally I got a call about a job…from DISD. I turned them down! It was even that bad of a school district 22 year ago!

    • Stonecutter says:

      @dallasmay: As a Dallas county resident, you have my admiration and sympathy.

  23. Difdi says:

    John Yaya
    John Bigboote
    John Johnson
    John Smallberries

    Anyone else seeing the humor here?

  24. Anonymous says:

    Yes I worked in college international student advising for years. On the one hand….there are legit frustrations getting SSNs for foreign nationals LEGALLY ALLOWED to work…at times, took 6-8 weeks from date of entry and if you paid a lot of money to sponsor a work visa for someone to sit there for 2 months….hard to deal with.

    On the other hand, there were (granted also problematic) ways around this. I believe the IRS has (or had at least) no problem with someone filing the fed form required to start work (W-4 I think?) with a notation of “in process” if they haven’t gotten the SSN yet. Then you file an amendment when they get it. But…..many HR database systems do not accommodate this.

    This is most of the problem – bureaucracies/databases that don’t/won’t talk to each other, dealt with that many times….again for COMPLETELY LEGAL reasons, people could not do things they were absolutely entitled to do, which were positives for the U.S. – because of agency snarls that even the bureau heads couldn’t unravel.

    I agree with the above who said the main problem is that SSNs were NEVER meant to be national ID numbers, but instead a way of tracking retirement. Many cell phone, car dealers, landlords etc required an SSN from my poor students who had just gotten here and of course didn’t have an SSN.

    The SSA’s tightening of issuance of SSNs to foreign nationals is not a bad thing for obvious reasons but……those industries that require it to get the basics in this country need to redo their systems accordingly. Maybe assign a “foreign national ID”

    oh wait….they tried that with intl students/DHS….and that computer wouldn’t talk to the older DHS/INS computers… ; )

    SO my point…..I don’t agree with what they did, but if you’ve never worked for/with federal/state bureaucracies…you have no idea how frustrating it can be.

  25. boxjockey68 says:

    Well….not to sound like a dummy, but how do they know if the person who is around those kids if a sex offender, murder or whatever since they are using fake ssn’s? This not only seems lie blatant fraud, but it could be a safety issue as well.

  26. Bahnburner says:

    Well, if it’s no big deal and standard operating procedure, maybe we ought to think of adopting this kind of system for say, Secret Service agents. Then we can see if it’s no big deal. This crap is what happens when you rule by exception.

  27. Stonecutter says:

    “We’re just amazed at the school district’s monumentally bad judgment.”

    You’ve clealry never read anything about the Dallas Independent School District.

  28. Yokai Monsters Spook Warfare says:

    We’re just amazed at the school district’s monumentally bad judgment.

    You’ve never lived in Dallas then….DISD is very well-known for it around here….

  29. Anonymous says:

    We lost a mortgage loan because someone used my husband’s ss# in this way. While no one tried to establish credit in his name, the fact that income was being reported under his ss# in another state meant that our application was rejected. During the time it took to clean up the mess, the interest rates went up. This is definitely fraud, and it is NOT victimless.