A consumer advocate disputed an assertion by the Social Security Administration chief that thieves are unable to steal with just someone’s Social Security number.

“She shouldn’t be so absolute,” U.S. PIRG Consumer Program Director Ed Mierzwinski said Wednesday. “A Social Security number and a name are enough to set up credit card accounts and cell phone accounts in some instances.”

He was responding to Carolyn Colvin, acting commissioner of the Social Security Administration, who last week told Financial Advisor magazine that crooks need more than a Social Security number to rip off consumers.

A Social Security number probably isn’t sufficient to set up a bank account since banks are under stiff “Know Your Customer” rules, Mierzwinski noted.

However, a hacker could probably gain credit with a stolen number at a small credit card company or with a small cell phone carrier, he said.

Mierzwinski agreed with Colvin that consumers should avoid giving their Social Security numbers to businesses.

However, he said giving out a Social Security number to a business that demands it can lead to more services since companies are allowed to refuse to do business with a customer who refuses to provide it.