TN 25 (10-23)

RM 03870.045 Scrambled Earnings - General

A. Introduction

Scrambled earnings are wages or SEI belonging to one individual but posted to another individual's ER.

Resolving scrambles is often difficult and time consuming. Because of the transient nature of an individual or the fact that an illegal use may be involved, it may be difficult to locate or establish the identity of one or more of the individuals involved.

B. Policy

The essential development in scrambled situations is to establish the identity of the individuals involved, credit the proper earnings to each individual and, if possible, prevent the situation from reoccurring.

In IC, only one office has jurisdiction of the claim. Document development requests for assistance to another office on the appropriate Earnings Development screens (MSOM EM 017.001 ).

Use the Earnings Control Transfer (ETRN) (MSOM EM 031.001 ) screen to transfer the jurisdiction of a case from one office to another.

C. Background

1. How Scrambled Earnings Occur

Scrambled earnings may occur when:

  • Earnings for one individual are incorrectly reported to another person having a similar or cross-referred surname; or

  • An individual mistakenly or deliberately used the SSN of another individual; or

  • A family member used the SSN of another member of the household (widow, spouse, child, etc.). (This may result from a misunderstanding or an attempt by an entitled RSI/DI or SSI individual to disguise earnings that could, if known, affect benefit payment;) or

  • An individual fraudulently uses someone else's documents and obtains an SSN with that person's number; or

  • A NH and spouse file a joint tax return with IRS, but all the earnings are reported under only one spouse's SSN. (This occurs when the self-employed NH shows the spouse's SSN on the Schedule SE, or the spouses are partners, but one spouse reports all the SEI under his SSN.)

  • An individual lends or sells their or someone else's SSN card to another individual, usually an illegal alien, so that the alien can obtain work in the U.S.

2. How Scrambled Earnings Are Identified

Scrambled earnings are identified when:

  • An individual receives a statement of earnings which shows that their earnings for a period are missing, or are substantially higher or lower than earned.

  • IRS notifies SSA (via Form IRS-3857) that 2 or more individuals filed income tax returns under the same SSN; or

  • DHS notifies SSA that an illegal alien with a SSN card has been deported (I-157) or voluntarily left the US (I-213) and the illegal alien either advises IRS, or an OCRO investigation shows the SSN did not belong to the alien; or

  • An individual notifies SSA that someone is using their SSN for income tax, unemployment compensation or other purpose; or

  • During the development of an Earnings After Death (EAD) or Young Children's Earnings (YCER) Alert, it is discovered that another individual is using the deceased's or child's SSN.

  • The Special Indicator (SPIN) 5 (SSN assigned to an individual based on fraudulent documents) is placed on the Numident. If the SPIN 5 is placed on the Numident when the individual originally requested an SS and there are earnings posted on the SSN, the earnings may not belong to that individual. If the SPIN 5 is placed on the Numident as the result of a replacement card request, some of the earnings posted to that SSN may not belong to the true NH. See RM 10215.225 for an explanation of the Numident Special Indicators (SPIN).


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RM 03870.045 - Scrambled Earnings - General - 10/05/2023
Batch run: 10/05/2023