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Social Security number

In the United States, a Social Security number (SSN) is a nine-digit number issued to U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and temporary (working) residents under section 205(c)(2) of the Social Security Act, codified as42 U.S.C. § 405(c)(2). The number is issued to an individual by the Social Security Administration, an independent agency of the United States government. Although the original purpose for the number was for the Social Security Administration to track individuals, the Social Security number has become a de facto national identification number for taxation and other purposes.

Social Security numbers were first issued by the Social Security Administration in November 1935 as part of the New Deal Social Security program. Within three months, 25 million numbers were issued.

On November 24, 1936, 1,074 of the nation's 45,000 post offices were designated "typing centers" to type up Social Security cards that were then sent to Washington, D.C. On December 1, 1936, as part of the publicity campaign for the new program, Joseph L. Fay of the Social Security Administration selected a record from the top of the first stack of 1,000 records and announced that the first Social Security number in history was assigned to John David Sweeney, Jr., of New Rochelle, New York. However, since the Social Security numbers were not assigned in chronological order, Sweeney did not receive the lowest Social Security number, 001-01-0001. That distinction belongs to Grace D. Owen of Concord, New Hampshire.

Before 1986, people often did not obtain a Social Security number until the age of about 14, since the numbers were used for income tracking purposes, and those under that age seldom had substantial income. The Tax Reform Act of 1986 required parents to list Social Security numbers for each dependent over the age of 5 for whom the parent wanted to claim a tax deduction. Before this act, parents claiming tax deductions were simply trusted not to lie about the number of children they supported. During the first year of the Tax Reform Act, this anti-fraud change resulted in seven million fewer minor dependents being claimed. The disappearance of these dependents is believed to have involved either children who never existed or tax deductions improperly claimed by non-custodial parents. In 1988, the threshold was lowered to two years old, and in 1990, the threshold was lowered yet again to one year old. Today, an SSN is required regardless of the child's age to receive an exemption.[citation needed] Since then, parents have often applied for Social Security numbers for their children soon after birth; today, it can be done on the application for a birth certificate.

The original purpose of this number was to track individuals' accounts within the Social Security program. It has since come to be used as an identifier for individuals within the United States, although rare errors occur where duplicates do exist. A few duplications did occur when prenumbered cards were sent out to regional SSA offices and (originally) post offices.

Employee, patient, student, and credit records are sometimes indexed by Social Security number.

The U.S. Armed Forces have used the Social Security number as an identification number for Army and Air Force personnel since July 1, 1969, the Navy and Marine Corps for their personnel since January 1, 1972, and the Coast Guard for their personnel since October 1, 1974. Previously, the United States military used a much more complicated system of service numbers that varied by service.

Beginning in June 2011, the DOD began removing the Social Security number from military identification cards, replacing them with a unique DOD identification number, formally known as the EDIPI.

Non-universal status

An old Social Security card with the "not for identification" message

Social Security was originally a universal tax, but when Medicare was passed in 1965, objecting religious groups in existence prior to 1951 were allowed to opt out of the system. Because of this, not every American is part of the Social Security program, and not everyone has a number. However, a Social Security number is required for parents to claim their children as dependents for federal income tax purposes, and the Internal Revenue Service requires all corporations to obtain SSNs (or alternative identifying numbers) from their employees, as described below. The Old Order Amish have fought to prevent universal Social Security by overturning rules such as a requirement to provide a Social Security number for a hunting license.

Social Security cards printed from January 1946 until January 1972 expressly stated that people should not use the number and card for identification. Since nearly everyone in the United States now has an SSN, it became convenient to use it anyway and the message was removed.

Since then, Social Security numbers have become de facto national identification numbers. Although some people do not have an SSN assigned to them, it is becoming increasingly difficult to engage in legitimate financial activities such as applying for a loan or a bank account without one. While the government cannot require an individual to disclose their SSN without a legal basis, companies may refuse to provide service to an individual who does not provide an SSN. The card on which an SSN is issued is still not suitable for primary identification as it has no photograph, no physical description, and no birth date. All it does is confirm that a particular number has been issued to a particular name. Instead, a driver's license or state ID card is used as an identification for adults.

Use required for federal tax purposes

Social Security card with legend "for Social Security and tax purposes" (1961)

Internal Revenue Code section 6109(d) provides: "The social security account number issued to an individual for purposes of section 205(c)(2)(A) of the Social Security Act [codified as42 U.S.C. § 405(c)(2)(A)] shall, except as shall otherwise be specified under regulations of the Secretary [of the Treasury or his delegate], be used as the identifying number for such individual for purposes of this title [the Internal Revenue Code, title 26 of the United States Code]."

The Internal Revenue Code also provides, when required by regulations prescribed by the secretary of the treasury or their delegate:

  • Inclusion in returns: Any person required under the authority of this title to make a return, statement, or other document shall include in such return, statement, or other document such identifying number as may be prescribed for securing proper identification of such person.
  • Furnishing number to other persons: Any person with respect to whom a return, statement, or other document is required under the authority of this title to be made by another person or whose identifying number is required to be shown on a return of another person shall furnish to such other person such identifying number as may be prescribed for securing their proper identification.

According to U.S. Treasury regulations, any person who, after October 31, 1962, works as an employee for wages subject to Social Security taxes, Medicare taxes, or U.S. federal income tax withholdings is required to apply for "an account number" using Form SS-5.

A taxpayer who is not eligible to have a Social Security number must obtain an alternative Taxpayer Identification Number.

Four different classifications of Social Security cards are issued. Such cards are issued by geographic location (SSN Area Number) to:

  1. persons of natural birth within the territorial boundaries of any one of the member States of the United States of America;
  2. persons who become U.S. citizens by oath, or birth within the exclusive legislative or territorial jurisdiction of the U.S. government;
  3. persons who become U.S. permanent residents;
  4. persons with certain restrictions.

There are two restricted types of Social Security cards:

  • One reads "not valid for employment." Such cards cannot be used as proof of work authorization, and are not acceptable as a List C document on the I-9 form.
  • The other reads "valid for work only with DHS authorization", or the older, "valid for work only with INS authorization." These cards are issued to people who have temporary work authorization in the U.S from the Department of Homeland Security -- the nation's border agency. They can satisfy the I-9 requirement, if they are accompanied by a work authorization card.

The cards commonly display the cardholder's name and number.

In 2004 Congress passed The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act; parts of which mandated that the Social Security Administration redesign the SSN card to prevent forgery. From April 2006 through August 2007, the SSA and Government Printing Office (GPO) employees were assigned to redesign the Social Security number card to the specifications of the Interagency Task Force created by the commissioner of Social Security in consultation with the secretary of Homeland Security.

The new SSN card design utilizes both covert and overt security features created by the SSA and GPO design teams.

Many citizens and privacy advocates are concerned about the disclosure and processing of Social Security numbers. Furthermore, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have demonstrated an algorithm that uses publicly available personal information to reconstruct a given SSN.

The SSN is frequently used by those involved in identity theft. This is because it is interconnected with many other forms of identification and people asking for it treat it as an authenticator. Financial institutions generally require an SSN to set up bank accounts, credit cards, and loans—partly because they assume that no one except the person it was issued to knows it.

Exacerbating the problem of using the Social Security number as an identifier is the fact that the Social Security card contains no biometric identifiers of any sort, making it essentially impossible to tell whether a person using a certain SSN truly belongs to someone without relying on other documentation (which may itself have been falsely procured through use of the fraudulent SSN). Congress has proposed federal laws that restrict the use of SSNs for identification and bans their use for a number of commercial purposes—e.g., rental applications.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) offers alternatives to SSNs in some places where providing untrusted parties with identification numbers is essential. Tax return preparers must obtain and use a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) to include on their client's tax returns (as part of signature requirements). Day care services have tax benefits, and even a sole proprietor should give parents an EIN (employer identification number) to use on their tax return.

The Social Security Administration has suggested that, if asked to provide their Social Security number, a citizen should ask which law requires its use. In accordance with §7213 of the 9/11 Commission Implementation Act of 2004 and20 CFR 422.103, the number of replacement Social Security cards per person is generally limited to three per calendar year and ten in a lifetime.

Identity confusion has also occurred because of the use of local Social Security numbers by the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau, whose numbers overlap with those of residents of New Hampshire and Maine.

Similarly, Social Security numbers are often valued information for hackers to gain in attacks such as social engineering attacks, where attackers try and manipulate people into disclosing private information. For example, in the social engineering attack involving Hewlett-Packard, executives hired private investigators to manipulate phone companies into disclosing calling information and social security numbers of employees they suspected were leaking information to the press.

A person can request a new Social Security number, but only under certain conditions:

  • Where sequential numbers assigned to members of the same family are causing problems.
  • In the event of duplicates having been issued.
  • In cases where the person has been a victim of domestic violence or harassment, and there is a clear need to change their number for their personal safety.
  • When a person has been a victim of identity theft, and his/her Social Security number continues to be problematic.
  • Where a person has a demonstrable religious objection to a number (such as certain Christians being averse to the number 666).

For all of these conditions, credible third-party evidence such as a restraining order or police report is required.

The Social Security number is a nine-digit number in the format "AAA-GG-SSSS". The number is divided into three parts: the first three digits, known as the area number because they were formerly assigned by geographical region; the middle two digits, known as the group number; and the final four digits, known as the serial number.

On June 25, 2011, the SSA changed the SSN assignment process to "SSN randomization". SSN randomization affected the SSN assignment process in the following ways:

  • It eliminated the geographical significance of the first three digits of the SSN, referred to as the area number, by no longer allocating specific numbers by state for assignment to individuals.
  • It eliminated the significance of the highest group number assigned for each area number, and, as a result, the High Group List is frozen in time and can be used for validation of only those SSNs issued prior to the randomization implementation date.
  • Previously unassigned area numbers have been introduced for assignment, excluding area numbers 000, 666 and 900–999.

Because Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) are issued by the IRS, they were not affected by this SSA change.

Historical structure

Prior to the 2011 randomization process, the first three digits or area numbers were assigned by geographical region. Prior to 1973, cards were issued in local Social Security offices around the country and the area number represented the office code where the card was issued. This did not necessarily have to be in the area where the applicant lived, since a person could apply for their card in any Social Security office. Beginning in 1973, when the SSA began assigning SSNs and issuing cards centrally from Baltimore, the area number was assigned based on the ZIP Code in the mailing address provided on the application for the original Social Security card. The applicant's mailing address did not have to be the same as their place of residence. Thus, the area number did not necessarily represent the state of residence of the applicant regardless of whether the card was issued prior to, or after, 1973.

Generally, numbers were assigned beginning in the northeast and moving south and westward, so that people applying from addresses on the east coast had the lowest numbers and those on the west coast had the highest numbers. As the areas assigned to a locality were exhausted, new areas from the pool were assigned, so some states had noncontiguous groups of numbers.

The middle two digits or group number range from 01 to 99. Even before SSN randomization, the group numbers were not assigned consecutively within an area. Instead, for administrative reasons, group numbers were issued in the following order:

  1. odd numbers from 01 through 09
  2. even numbers from 10 through 98
  3. even numbers from 02 through 08
  4. odd numbers from 11 through 99

As an example, group number 98 would be issued before 11.

The last four digits, which are serial numbers, "are the most important to protect" and they can "open credit in your name, steal your money" and more. Before SSN randomization took effect, they represented a straight numerical sequence of digits from 0001 to 9999 within the group.

Valid SSNs

Prior to June 25, 2011, a valid SSN could not have an area number between 734 and 749, or above 772, the highest area number the Social Security Administration had allocated. Effective June 25, 2011, the SSA assigns SSNs randomly and allows for the assignment of area numbers between 734 and 749 and above 772 through the 800s. This should not be confused with Tax Identification Numbers (TINs), which include additional area numbers.

Some special numbers are never allocated:

  • Numbers with all zeros in any digit group (000-##-####, ###-00-####, ###-##-0000).
  • Numbers with 666 or 900–999 (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number) in the first digit group.

Until 2011, the SSA published the last group number used for each area number. Since group numbers were allocated in a regular pattern, it was possible to identify an unissued SSN that contained an invalid group number. Now numbers are assigned randomly, and fraudulent SSNs are not easily detectable with publicly available information. Many online services, however, provide SSN validation.

Unlike many similar numbers, no check digit is included.

Exhaustion and re-use

The Social Security Administration does not reuse Social Security numbers. It has issued over 450 million since the start of the program, and at a use rate of about 5.5 million per year. It says it has enough to last several generations without reuse or changing the number of digits. However, there have been instances where multiple individuals have been inadvertently assigned the same Social Security number.

The promotional Social Security card as distributed by the F.W. Woolworth Company

Some SSNs used in advertising have rendered those numbers invalid. One famous instance of this occurred in 1938 when the E. H. Ferree Company in Lockport, New York, decided to promote its product by showing how a Social Security card would fit into its wallets. A sample card, used for display purposes, was placed in each wallet, which was sold by Woolworth and other department stores across the country; the wallet manufacturer's vice president and treasurer Douglas Patterson used the actual SSN of his secretary, Hilda Schrader Whitcher.

Even though the card was printed in red (the real card is printed in blue) and had "specimen" printed across the front, many people used Whitcher's SSN as their own. The Social Security Administration's account of the incident also claims that the fake card was half the size of a real card, despite a miniature card being useless for its purpose and despite Whitcher's holding two cards of apparently identical size in the accompanying photograph. Over time, the number that appeared (078-05-1120) has been claimed by a total of over 40,000 people as their own. The SSA initiated an advertising campaign stating that it was incorrect to use the number (Hilda Whitcher was issued a new SSN). However, the number was found to be in use by 12 individuals as late as 1977.

More recently, Todd Davis distributed his SSN in advertisements for his company's LifeLock identity theft protection service, which allowed his identity to be stolen over a dozen times.

List showing the geographical location of the first three digits of the Social Security numbers assigned in the United States and its territories from 1973 until June 25, 2011. Repeated numbers indicate that they have been transferred to another location or they're shared by more than one location.

On June 25, 2011, the SSA changed the SSN assignment process to "SSN randomization". SSN randomization affects the SSN assignment process. Among its changes, it eliminates the geographical significance of the first three digits of the SSN, previously referred to as the Area Number, by no longer allocating the Area Numbers for assignment to individuals in specific states.

SSN area number Location
001–003 New Hampshire
004–007 Maine
008–009 Vermont
010–034 Massachusetts
035–039 Rhode Island
040–049 Connecticut
050–134 New York
135–158 New Jersey
159–211 Pennsylvania
212–220 Maryland
221–222 Delaware
223–231 Virginia
232–236 West Virginia
232, 237–246 North Carolina
247–251 South Carolina
252–260 Georgia
261–267 Florida
268–302 Ohio
303–317 Indiana
318–361 Illinois
362–386 Michigan
387–399 Wisconsin
400–407 Kentucky
408–415 Tennessee
416–424 Alabama
425–428 Mississippi
429–432 Arkansas
433–439 Louisiana
440–448 Oklahoma
449–467 Texas
468–477 Minnesota
478–485 Iowa
486–500 Missouri
501–502 North Dakota
503–504 South Dakota
505–508 Nebraska
509–515 Kansas
516–517 Montana
518–519 Idaho
520 Wyoming
521–524 Colorado
525, 585 New Mexico
526–527 Arizona
528–529 Utah
530, 680 Nevada
531–539 Washington
540–544 Oregon
545–573 California
574 Alaska
575–576 Hawaii
577–579 District of Columbia
580 U.S. Virgin Islands
580–584 Puerto Rico
586 Pacific Ocean territories
  • Guam
  • American Samoa
  • Philippine Islands (under U.S. rule until 1946)
  • Northern Mariana Islands
587–665 California (Southern California and the Central Valley)
667–679 Not issued
681–699 Not issued
700–728 Railroad Retirement Board (discontinued July 1, 1963)
729–730 Enumeration at entry

Other:

Hawaii: 750 to 751, Mississippi: 752 to 755, Tennessee: 756 to 763, Arizona: 764 to 765, Florida: 766 to 772.

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Social Security number
Social Security number Article Talk Language Watch Edit In the United States a Social Security number SSN is a nine digit number issued to U S citizens permanent residents and temporary working residents under section 205 c 2 of the Social Security Act codified as 42 U S C 405 c 2 The number is issued to an individual by the Social Security Administration an independent agency of the United States government Although the original purpose for the number was for the Social Security Administration to track individuals 1 the Social Security number has become a de facto national identification number for taxation and other purposes 2 A Social Security card issued by the Railroad Retirement Board in 1943 A Social Security number may be obtained by applying on Form SS 5 Application for a Social Security Number Card 3 Contents 1 History 2 Purpose and use 2 1 Non universal status 2 2 Use required for federal tax purposes 3 Types of Social Security cards 4 Identity theft 5 Replacement numbers 6 Structure 6 1 Historical structure 6 2 Valid SSNs 6 3 Exhaustion and re use 7 SSNs used in advertising 8 List of Social Security area numbers 9 See also 10 References 11 External linksHistory EditSocial Security numbers were first issued by the Social Security Administration in November 1935 as part of the New Deal Social Security program Within three months 25 million numbers were issued 4 On November 24 1936 1 074 of the nation s 45 000 post offices were designated typing centers to type up Social Security cards that were then sent to Washington D C On December 1 1936 as part of the publicity campaign for the new program Joseph L Fay of the Social Security Administration selected a record from the top of the first stack of 1 000 records and announced that the first Social Security number in history was assigned to John David Sweeney Jr of New Rochelle New York However since the Social Security numbers were not assigned in chronological order Sweeney did not receive the lowest Social Security number 001 01 0001 That distinction belongs to Grace D Owen of Concord New Hampshire 5 6 Before 1986 people often did not obtain a Social Security number until the age of about 14 7 since the numbers were used for income tracking purposes and those under that age seldom had substantial income 8 The Tax Reform Act of 1986 required parents to list Social Security numbers for each dependent over the age of 5 for whom the parent wanted to claim a tax deduction 9 Before this act parents claiming tax deductions were simply trusted not to lie about the number of children they supported During the first year of the Tax Reform Act this anti fraud change resulted in seven million fewer minor dependents being claimed The disappearance of these dependents is believed to have involved either children who never existed or tax deductions improperly claimed by non custodial parents 10 In 1988 the threshold was lowered to two years old and in 1990 the threshold was lowered yet again to one year old 11 Today an SSN is required regardless of the child s age to receive an exemption citation needed Since then parents have often applied for Social Security numbers for their children soon after birth today it can be done on the application for a birth certificate 12 Purpose and use EditThe original purpose of this number was to track individuals accounts within the Social Security program It has since come to be used as an identifier for individuals within the United States although rare errors occur where duplicates do exist A few duplications did occur when prenumbered cards were sent out to regional SSA offices and originally post offices Employee patient student and credit records are sometimes indexed by Social Security number The U S Armed Forces have used the Social Security number as an identification number for Army and Air Force personnel since July 1 1969 the Navy and Marine Corps for their personnel since January 1 1972 and the Coast Guard for their personnel since October 1 1974 13 Previously the United States military used a much more complicated system of service numbers that varied by service Beginning in June 2011 the DOD began removing the Social Security number from military identification cards replacing them with a unique DOD identification number formally known as the EDIPI 14 Non universal status Edit An old Social Security card with the not for identification message Social Security was originally a universal tax but when Medicare was passed in 1965 objecting religious groups in existence prior to 1951 were allowed to opt out of the system 15 Because of this not every American is part of the Social Security program and not everyone has a number However a Social Security number is required for parents to claim their children as dependents for federal income tax purposes 12 and the Internal Revenue Service requires all corporations to obtain SSNs or alternative identifying numbers from their employees as described below The Old Order Amish have fought to prevent universal Social Security by overturning rules such as a requirement to provide a Social Security number for a hunting license 16 Social Security cards printed from January 1946 until January 1972 expressly stated that people should not use the number and card for identification 17 Since nearly everyone in the United States now has an SSN it became convenient to use it anyway and the message was removed 18 Since then Social Security numbers have become de facto national identification numbers 2 Although some people do not have an SSN assigned to them it is becoming increasingly difficult to engage in legitimate financial activities such as applying for a loan or a bank account without one 19 While the government cannot require an individual to disclose their SSN without a legal basis companies may refuse to provide service to an individual who does not provide an SSN 20 21 The card on which an SSN is issued is still not suitable for primary identification as it has no photograph no physical description and no birth date All it does is confirm that a particular number has been issued to a particular name Instead a driver s license or state ID card is used as an identification for adults Use required for federal tax purposes Edit Social Security card with legend for Social Security and tax purposes 1961 Internal Revenue Code section 6109 d provides The social security account number issued to an individual for purposes of section 205 c 2 A of the Social Security Act codified as 42 U S C 405 c 2 A shall except as shall otherwise be specified under regulations of the Secretary of the Treasury or his delegate be used as the identifying number for such individual for purposes of this title the Internal Revenue Code title 26 of the United States Code 22 The Internal Revenue Code also provides when required by regulations prescribed by the secretary of the treasury or their delegate Inclusion in returns Any person required under the authority of this title to make a return statement or other document shall include in such return statement or other document such identifying number as may be prescribed for securing proper identification of such person Furnishing number to other persons Any person with respect to whom a return statement or other document is required under the authority of this title to be made by another person or whose identifying number is required to be shown on a return of another person shall furnish to such other person such identifying number as may be prescribed for securing their proper identification 23 According to U S Treasury regulations any person who after October 31 1962 works as an employee for wages subject to Social Security taxes Medicare taxes or U S federal income tax withholdings is required to apply for an account number using Form SS 5 24 A taxpayer who is not eligible to have a Social Security number must obtain an alternative Taxpayer Identification Number Types of Social Security cards EditFour different classifications of Social Security cards are issued Such cards are issued by geographic location SSN Area Number to persons of natural birth within the territorial boundaries of any one of the member States of the United States of America persons who become U S citizens by oath or birth within the exclusive legislative or territorial jurisdiction of the U S government persons who become U S permanent residents persons with certain restrictions There are two restricted types of Social Security cards One reads not valid for employment Such cards cannot be used as proof of work authorization and are not acceptable as a List C document on the I 9 form The other reads valid for work only with DHS authorization or the older valid for work only with INS authorization These cards are issued to people who have temporary work authorization in the U S from the Department of Homeland Security the nation s border agency They can satisfy the I 9 requirement if they are accompanied by a work authorization card The cards commonly display the cardholder s name and number In 2004 Congress passed The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act parts of which mandated that the Social Security Administration redesign the SSN card to prevent forgery From April 2006 through August 2007 the SSA and Government Printing Office GPO employees were assigned to redesign the Social Security number card to the specifications of the Interagency Task Force created by the commissioner of Social Security in consultation with the secretary of Homeland Security The new SSN card design utilizes both covert and overt security features created by the SSA and GPO design teams Identity theft EditMany citizens and privacy advocates are concerned about the disclosure and processing of Social Security numbers Furthermore researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have demonstrated an algorithm that uses publicly available personal information to reconstruct a given SSN 25 The SSN is frequently used by those involved in identity theft This is because it is interconnected with many other forms of identification and people asking for it treat it as an authenticator Financial institutions generally require an SSN to set up bank accounts credit cards and loans partly because they assume that no one except the person it was issued to knows it Exacerbating the problem of using the Social Security number as an identifier is the fact that the Social Security card contains no biometric identifiers of any sort making it essentially impossible to tell whether a person using a certain SSN truly belongs to someone without relying on other documentation which may itself have been falsely procured through use of the fraudulent SSN Congress has proposed federal laws that restrict the use of SSNs for identification and bans their use for a number of commercial purposes e g rental applications 26 The Internal Revenue Service IRS offers alternatives to SSNs in some places where providing untrusted parties with identification numbers is essential Tax return preparers must obtain and use a Preparer Tax Identification Number PTIN to include on their client s tax returns as part of signature requirements 27 Day care services have tax benefits and even a sole proprietor should give parents an EIN employer identification number to use on their tax return The Social Security Administration has suggested that if asked to provide their Social Security number a citizen should ask which law requires its use 28 In accordance with 7213 of the 9 11 Commission Implementation Act of 2004 and 20 CFR 422 103 the number of replacement Social Security cards per person is generally limited to three per calendar year and ten in a lifetime 28 Identity confusion has also occurred because of the use of local Social Security numbers by the Federated States of Micronesia the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Republic of Palau whose numbers overlap with those of residents of New Hampshire and Maine 29 Similarly Social Security numbers are often valued information for hackers to gain in attacks such as social engineering attacks where attackers try and manipulate people into disclosing private information For example in the social engineering attack involving Hewlett Packard executives hired private investigators to manipulate phone companies into disclosing calling information and social security numbers of employees they suspected were leaking information to the press Replacement numbers EditA person can request a new Social Security number but only under certain conditions 30 Where sequential numbers assigned to members of the same family are causing problems In the event of duplicates having been issued In cases where the person has been a victim of domestic violence or harassment and there is a clear need to change their number for their personal safety 31 When a person has been a victim of identity theft and his her Social Security number continues to be problematic Where a person has a demonstrable religious objection to a number such as certain Christians being averse to the number 666 For all of these conditions credible third party evidence such as a restraining order or police report is required Structure EditThe Social Security number is a nine digit number in the format AAA GG SSSS 32 The number is divided into three parts the first three digits known as the area number because they were formerly assigned by geographical region the middle two digits known as the group number and the final four digits known as the serial number On June 25 2011 the SSA changed the SSN assignment process to SSN randomization 33 SSN randomization affected the SSN assignment process in the following ways It eliminated the geographical significance of the first three digits of the SSN referred to as the area number by no longer allocating specific numbers by state for assignment to individuals It eliminated the significance of the highest group number assigned for each area number and as a result the High Group List is frozen in time and can be used for validation of only those SSNs issued prior to the randomization implementation date Previously unassigned area numbers have been introduced for assignment excluding area numbers 000 666 and 900 999 Because Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers ITINs are issued by the IRS they were not affected by this SSA change Historical structure Edit Prior to the 2011 randomization process the first three digits or area numbers were assigned by geographical region Prior to 1973 cards were issued in local Social Security offices around the country and the area number represented the office code where the card was issued This did not necessarily have to be in the area where the applicant lived since a person could apply for their card in any Social Security office Beginning in 1973 when the SSA began assigning SSNs and issuing cards centrally from Baltimore the area number was assigned based on the ZIP Code in the mailing address provided on the application for the original Social Security card The applicant s mailing address did not have to be the same as their place of residence Thus the area number did not necessarily represent the state of residence of the applicant regardless of whether the card was issued prior to or after 1973 Generally numbers were assigned beginning in the northeast and moving south and westward so that people applying from addresses on the east coast had the lowest numbers and those on the west coast had the highest numbers As the areas assigned to a locality were exhausted new areas from the pool were assigned so some states had noncontiguous groups of numbers The middle two digits or group number range from 01 to 99 Even before SSN randomization the group numbers were not assigned consecutively within an area Instead for administrative reasons group numbers were issued in the following order 34 odd numbers from 01 through 09 even numbers from 10 through 98 even numbers from 02 through 08 odd numbers from 11 through 99 As an example group number 98 would be issued before 11 The last four digits which are serial numbers are the most important to protect and they can open credit in your name steal your money and more 35 Before SSN randomization took effect they represented a straight numerical sequence of digits from 0001 to 9999 within the group Valid SSNs Edit Prior to June 25 2011 a valid SSN could not have an area number between 734 and 749 or above 772 the highest area number the Social Security Administration had allocated Effective June 25 2011 the SSA assigns SSNs randomly and allows for the assignment of area numbers between 734 and 749 and above 772 through the 800s 36 This should not be confused with Tax Identification Numbers TINs which include additional area numbers 37 Some special numbers are never allocated Numbers with all zeros in any digit group 000 00 0000 38 39 Numbers with 666 or 900 999 Individual Taxpayer Identification Number in the first digit group 38 Until 2011 the SSA published the last group number used for each area number 40 Since group numbers were allocated in a regular pattern it was possible to identify an unissued SSN that contained an invalid group number Now numbers are assigned randomly and fraudulent SSNs are not easily detectable with publicly available information Many online services however provide SSN validation Unlike many similar numbers no check digit is included Exhaustion and re use Edit The Social Security Administration does not reuse Social Security numbers It has issued over 450 million since the start of the program and at a use rate of about 5 5 million per year It says it has enough to last several generations without reuse or changing the number of digits 41 However there have been instances where multiple individuals have been inadvertently assigned the same Social Security number 42 SSNs used in advertising Edit The promotional Social Security card as distributed by the F W Woolworth Company Some SSNs used in advertising have rendered those numbers invalid One famous instance of this occurred in 1938 when the E H Ferree Company in Lockport New York decided to promote its product by showing how a Social Security card would fit into its wallets A sample card used for display purposes was placed in each wallet which was sold by Woolworth and other department stores across the country the wallet manufacturer s vice president and treasurer Douglas Patterson used the actual SSN of his secretary Hilda Schrader Whitcher Even though the card was printed in red the real card is printed in blue and had specimen printed across the front many people used Whitcher s SSN as their own The Social Security Administration s account of the incident also claims that the fake card was half the size of a real card despite a miniature card being useless for its purpose and despite Whitcher s holding two cards of apparently identical size in the accompanying photograph Over time the number that appeared 078 05 1120 has been claimed by a total of over 40 000 people as their own 43 The SSA initiated an advertising campaign stating that it was incorrect to use the number Hilda Whitcher was issued a new SSN However the number was found to be in use by 12 individuals as late as 1977 43 More recently Todd Davis distributed his SSN in advertisements for his company s LifeLock identity theft protection service which allowed his identity to be stolen over a dozen times 44 45 List of Social Security area numbers EditList showing the geographical location of the first three digits of the Social Security numbers assigned in the United States and its territories from 1973 until June 25 2011 Repeated numbers indicate that they have been transferred to another location or they re shared by more than one location On June 25 2011 the SSA changed the SSN assignment process to SSN randomization 46 SSN randomization affects the SSN assignment process Among its changes it eliminates the geographical significance of the first three digits of the SSN previously referred to as the Area Number by no longer allocating the Area Numbers for assignment to individuals in specific states SSN area number Location 47 001 003 New Hampshire004 007 Maine008 009 Vermont010 034 Massachusetts035 039 Rhode Island040 049 Connecticut050 134 New York135 158 New Jersey159 211 Pennsylvania212 220 Maryland221 222 Delaware223 231 Virginia232 236 West Virginia232 237 246 North Carolina247 251 South Carolina252 260 Georgia261 267 Florida268 302 Ohio303 317 Indiana318 361 Illinois362 386 Michigan387 399 Wisconsin400 407 Kentucky408 415 Tennessee416 424 Alabama425 428 Mississippi429 432 Arkansas433 439 Louisiana440 448 Oklahoma449 467 Texas468 477 Minnesota478 485 Iowa486 500 Missouri501 502 North Dakota503 504 South Dakota505 508 Nebraska509 515 Kansas516 517 Montana518 519 Idaho520 Wyoming521 524 Colorado525 585 New Mexico526 527 Arizona528 529 Utah530 680 Nevada531 539 Washington540 544 Oregon545 573 California574 Alaska575 576 Hawaii577 579 District of Columbia580 U S Virgin Islands580 584 Puerto Rico586 Pacific Ocean territories Guam American Samoa Philippine Islands under U S rule until 1946 Northern Mariana Islands587 665 California Southern California and the Central Valley 667 679 Not issued681 699 Not issued700 728 Railroad Retirement Board discontinued July 1 1963 729 730 Enumeration at entry Other Hawaii 750 to 751 Mississippi 752 to 755 Tennessee 756 to 763 Arizona 764 to 765 Florida 766 to 772 See also EditDeath Master File National identification number Personally identifiable informationReferences Edit Pickett Carolyn 2009 The Story of the Social Security Number Social Security Bulletin Vol 69 no 2 United States Social Security Administration Retrieved October 19 2018 a b Kouri Jim March 9 2005 Social Security Cards De Facto National Identification American Chronicle Archived from the original on June 29 2012 Retrieved October 19 2018 20 CFR 422 103 b Social Security Chronology United States Social Security Administration Retrieved October 19 2018 The First Social Security Number The Lowest Number Social Security History United States Social Security Administration Retrieved October 19 2018 First Applicant on Pension List Ogden Standard Examiner Ogden Utah December 2 1936 p 8 Retrieved October 19 2018 Long Wayne S Spring 1993 Social Security Numbers Issued A 20 Year Review PDF Social Security Journal 56 1 82 Retrieved October 19 2018 Goldberg Jack October 17 1993 A strategy for assembling samples of adult twin pairs in the United States Statistics in Medicine 12 18 1693 1702 doi 10 1002 sim 4780121805 PMID 8248662 Retrieved October 19 2018 Tax Reform Act of 1986 Social Security History United States Social Security Administration Retrieved October 19 2018 Liebman Jeffrey B December 2000 Who Are the Ineligible EITC Recipients PDF National Tax Journal 53 4 1165 1186 doi 10 17310 ntj 2000 4S1 06 JSTOR 41789513 Social Security Number Chronology Social Security Administration Retrieved October 19 2018 a b Social Security Numbers For Children Social Security Administration December 2017 Retrieved October 19 2018 Service Numbers and Social Security Numbers National Archives 2016 08 15 Retrieved October 19 2018 Garamone Jim April 4 2011 DOD removes SSAN from ID cards U S Army Retrieved October 19 2018 Pay Unto Caesar The Amish amp Social Security AmishNews com Retrieved October 19 2018 Amish reject giving Social Security numbers to get licenses The Chippewa Herald August 30 1999 Retrieved October 19 2018 Version History Social Security History United States Social Security Administration Archived from the original on June 29 2012 Retrieved October 19 2018 Pear Robert July 26 1998 The Nation Not for Identification Purposes Just Kidding The New York Times Retrieved October 19 2018 Social Security Number Not Required Scribd com April 29 2008 Retrieved October 19 2018 Mullen Charles H March 18 1998 Letter to Mr Scott McDonald Office of Public Enquiries Social Security Administration Retrieved October 19 2018 Can I refuse to give my Social Security number to a private business Frequently Asked Questions United States Social Security Administration May 18 2018 Retrieved October 19 2018 26 U S C 6109 d 26 U S C 6109 a 26 C F R sec 31 6011 b 2 a 1 ii Timmer John July 17 2009 New algorithm guesses SSNs using date and place of birth Ars Technica Retrieved October 19 2018 Broache Anne Congress may slap restrictions on SSN use CNET News News cnet com Archived from the original on 2012 07 11 Retrieved October 19 2018 PTIN Requirements for Tax Return Preparers Internal Revenue Service www irs gov Retrieved 2021 02 20 a b Your Social Security Number And Card How can I protect my Social Security number Social Security Administration Retrieved October 19 2018 Meyer Bill August 17 2009 How many Americans Social Security numbers were officially duplicated for Pacific islanders The Plain Dealer Retrieved October 19 2018 Can I change my Social Security number Social Security Administration Retrieved October 19 2018 New Numbers for Domestic Violence Victims PDF Social Security Administration Retrieved October 19 2018 Social Security Administration The SSN Numbering Scheme Retrieved October 19 2018 Social Security Number Randomization Socialsecurity gov Retrieved October 19 2018 The SSN Numbering Scheme SocialSecurity gov Retrieved October 19 2018 Did you know The last four digits of your Social Security Social Security Number Allocations Social Security Administration Retrieved October 19 2018 Taxpayer Identification Numbers TIN Internal Revenue Service May 2 2018 Retrieved October 19 2018 a b Social Security Number Randomization Social Security Administration Retrieved October 19 2018 RM 10201 035 Invalid Social Security Numbers SSNs Program Operations Manual System POMS United States Social Security Administration June 23 2011 Retrieved October 19 2018 High Group List And Other Ways To Determine If An SSN Is Valid Social Security Administration Retrieved October 19 2018 Q20 Are Social Security numbers reused after a person dies United States Social Security Administration Retrieved October 19 2018 Noyes Katherine November 12 2015 A tale of two women same birthday same Social Security number same big data mess PC World Retrieved October 19 2018 a b Social Security Cards Issued by Woolworth Social Security Administration Retrieved October 19 2018 Zetter Kim May 18 2010 LifeLock CEO s Identity Stolen 13 Times Wired Retrieved October 19 2018 Vijayan Jaikumar May 19 2010 LifeLock CEO said to be victim of identity theft 13 times ComputerWorld Retrieved October 19 2018 Social Security Number Randomization SocialSecurity gov Retrieved October 19 2018 Social Security Number Allocations www ssa gov Retrieved October 19 2018 External links EditSocial Security Administration United States Social Security Death Index Database listing over 85 million SSNs all of which entered the public domain upon the death of their owners Woolworth SSN Card The background of the most misused Social Security number in history at Snopes Social Security Cards Issued by Woolworth The most misused SSN of all time was 078 05 1120 Complete list of area number groups from the Social Security Administration Social Security Administration s FAQ for Social Security Numbers Social Security card application Hearing on Removing Social Security Numbers from Medicare Cards Joint Hearing before the Subcommittee on Social Security and Subcommittee on Health of the Committee on Ways and Means U S House of Representatives One Hundred Twelfth Congress Second Session August 1 2012 How to Replace a Lost or Stolen Security Card Puckett Carolyn 2009 The Story of the Social Security Number Social Security Bulletin 69 2 55 74 PMID 19697506 Retrieved October 19 2018 PDF version Retrieved from https en wikipedia org w index php title Social Security number amp oldid 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