Do the numbers on my Social Security card mean anything?

Q:   Do the numbers on my Social Security card mean anything?

A:   Part of the Social Security number (SSN) indicated an area of the country.  This ended for original numbers issued starting with June 25, 2011.

The nine-digit Social Security number (SSN) has three parts:

  • the first three digits are the area number
  • the second set of two digits is called the group number
  • the final set of four digits is the serial number

Up to 1972, local Social Security offices around the country assigned SSN’s.  Until then the three-digit area number reflected the state where the card was issued. 

In 1972, the Social Security Administration started to issue original numbers centrally.  Then the person’s mailing address determined the area number.  Generally, numbers on the east coast were lower and those on the west coast higher. 

The middle two digits break the number into conveniently sized blocks.  The last four digits are a straight numerical sequence of digits from 0001-9999 within the group.   They have no other meaning.

Remember that the entire process was completed manually when the first Social Security numbers were issued.  This nine-digit system was an internal bookkeeping method to make storage of all those paper records easier.

To help protect Social Security number security and to make more SSN’s available in every state, a new way of issuing original SSN’s started on June 25, 2011.  Called SSN Randomization, the new process ended any geographical significance of the first three digits of the SSN.  Area numbers are now random and do not reflect any specific state or geographical area.

Over time, this change will help protect an individual’s Social Security number against fraud and identity theft by making it more difficult to figure out an SSN using public information. 

Randomization applies only to original Social Security numbers.  It will not change the number that anyone already has and it will not change the existing nine-digit format.

 

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