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4 numbers are all that stand between you and your criminal clone


David Bloys -

Updated 02-24-12

Almost everyone living in America today has a Social Security number. But you may not realize that only four digits uniquely identify you as the legitimate owner. These four numbers are all a criminal needs to steal your good name and wreck your life.

This is why financial institutions ask you to identify yourself on the phone with only  four of the nine numbers contained in the government issued number.

Identity thieves understand the Social Security numbering scheme all too well. People with criminal intent understand that with just a phone call and the last four numbers from your SSN, anyone, from anywhere in the world can take control of your identity.

Unfortunately, some government officials just don't get it. While spending millions on redaction software to remove Social Security numbers from records posted on the Internet, they leave behind the only numbers identity thieves really need.

Your nine-digit SSN is composed of three parts. The first two sets of numbers identify the group of people who received their numbers from the same region and at approximately the same time as you. Only the last part identifies the individual. These four numbers are the true key to your identity.

Your Social Security Number Has Three Parts

Area Number: are-xx-xxxx

The Area Number:  Prior to 1972, cards were issued in local Social Security offices around the country and the Area Number represented the State in which the card was issued. This did not necessarily have to be the State where the applicant lived, since a person could apply for their card in any Social Security office. Since 1972, when SSA began assigning SSNs and issuing cards centrally from Baltimore, the area number assigned has been based on the ZIP code in the mailing address provided on the application for the original Social Security card. The applicant's mailing address does not have to be the same as their place of residence. Thus, the Area Number does not necessarily represent the State of residence of the applicant, either prior to 1972 or since.

Generally, numbers were assigned beginning in the northeast and moving westward. So people on the east coast have the lowest numbers and those on the west coast have the highest numbers.


Group Number xxx-gn-xxxx
Note: One should not make too much of the "geographical code." It is not meant to be any kind of useable geographical information. The numbering scheme was designed in 1936 (before computers) to make it easier for SSA to store the applications in our files in Baltimore since the files were organized by regions as well as alphabetically. It was really just a bookkeeping device for the  internal use of the Social Security Administration and was never intended to be anything more than that.

Within each area, the group number (middle two (2) digits) range from 01 to 99 but are not assigned in consecutive order. For administrative reasons, group numbers issued first consist of the ODD numbers from 01 through 09 and then EVEN numbers from 10 through 98, within each area number allocated to a State. After all numbers in group 98 of a particular area have been issued, the EVEN Groups 02 through 08 are used, followed by ODD Groups 11 through 99.

Personal Number xxx-xx-urid

The last four digits of your SSN identify you as an individual. These numbers are the key to your financial identity. Only the last four numbers, when combined with your name, make it possible for you or anyone who knows those numbers to act in your name..

Armed with just these four numbers, anyone can hijack your identity with a phone call or the click of a mouse.

You have a responsibility to guard your Social Security number and so does the government. Local and state agencies must stop providing criminals all over the world with the only part of your number needed to take everything you own.

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