Wednesday, June 15, 2022

What Does Your Social Security Number Say About You

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Four times you shouldnt give out your Social Security number

At present, the SSAhas distributed some 450 million numbers and has some420 million numbers available for distribution. So its likely the system will be around for awhile. Unfortunately, because data entry has sometimes been done by people, one study showed many people havemultiple Social Security numbers associated with their names and many Social Security numbers are associated with up to five people. No system is foolproof. But most people have only one Social Security number that can be used to ensure they receive the benefits they have worked toward all their lives.

Because of the importance of this number, its key not to share it as a form of identification unless absolutely necessary. You are, in general, the only person in the world with your number. Thats pretty special.

Overview Of Social Security Numbers

In the United States, a Social Security number is a number issued to U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and people that are temporarily working in the country. The number is issued to an individual by the SSA, an agency of the federal government.

Its primary purpose is tracking working individuals for taxation purposes and to track Social Security benefits. Since it was initially introduced, the SSN has become the primary national identification number, even though it was not originally intended to be used as a form of identification.

Ssns Used In Advertising

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 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 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 . 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.

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Your Social Security Number Is The Key

Originally, your Social Security number was a way for the government to track your earnings and pay you retirement benefits. But over the years, it has become much more than that. It is the key to a lot of your personal information. With your name and SSN, an identity thief could open new credit and bank accounts, rent an apartment, or even get a job.

Why Do I Need To Certify My Ssn Or Tin

Social Security Number Information

If youve been notified that the taxpayer information we have on file for you is incomplete or inaccurate, youll need to complete the Substitute Form W-9 to certify your SSN or TIN. The IRS requires you to certify your SSN or TIN to verify your U.S. tax status. If our information doesnt match what the IRS has on file, the IRS requires Fidelity to withhold 24% of the proceeds when you sell a security or receive dividends, interest, or other income. You may also be subject to penalties.

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Dissecting The Social Security Number

The nine digit social security number is grouped into three parts the area number, group number, and serial number.

The Area Number

The area number is the first grouping in the social security number. Originally, the area number indicated the location of the Social Security Administration office where an SSN was issued . Individuals could apply at any office, so the area number was not an indication of where they lived or worked. This changed in 1972 when the Social Security Administration began issuing SSNs from its Baltimore headquarters and assigning area numbers based on the applicants mailing address.

Anyone who applied for a social security number between 1972 and 2011 will have an area number that correlates to the mailing address listed on their application . However, the area number cannot be used to determine residence since you can have mail sent to any location. In 2011, the SSA changed the way area numbers are assigned yet again to a system called randomization. Anyone applying for an SSN after June 25, 2011 has received a randomized area number that has no correlation to any location .

The Group Number

The middle section of numbers is simply there to make administration easier for the SSA. The group number ranges from 01 to 99 and allows Social Security Numbers with the same area number to be broken into smaller pairings. Geographic data is not indicated by the group number.

The Serial Number

Your Guide To What Social Security Numbers Mean

If youve ever applied for a job, loan, or credit card, youve probably been asked for your Social Security number. In many ways, your Social Security number is as much a part of you as your date of birthit follows you from birth to death and can serve as a key to your sensitive information.

Its clear that having one is vital because its used in various ways. You probably even know the number by heart. But have you ever wondered what Social Security numbers mean?

In this guide, discover what a Social Security number is, how to decode the numbers, if theyre reused, and what your number says about you.

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The Purpose Of Having A Social Security Number

      InvestopediaForbes AdvisorThe Motley Fool, CredibleInsider

        A Social Security number is a nine-digit number that the U.S. government issues to all U.S. citizens and eligible U.S. residents who apply for one. The government uses this number to keep track of your lifetime earnings and the number of years worked.

        When the time comes to retire, or if you ever need to receive Social Security disability income, the government uses the information about your contributions to Social Security to determine your eligibility and calculate your benefit payments. Most people will use the same Social Security number;their entire lives, though some people might need to apply for a replacement number at some point because of identity theft.

        Keep reading below to find out more about when and why you need a Social Security number as well as when you should avoid using it.

        How Are Social Security Numbers Formulated

        Did Someone Steal Your Social Security Number to File Taxes? Here’s What to Do

        Most of us dont really know what our Social Security number means. Why is one persons number so very different from someone who was born in the same hospital a few years later? Do they recycle Social Security numbers? What do those three sequences represent? And what is a Social Security number?

        According to the Social Security Administrationshistory of Social Security numbers, the numerical sequence was the system the three-memberSocial Security Board finally agreed on to enable them to track workers earnings throughout their lives. They couldnt just use peoples names and addresses, because people move around. Besides, using just names and addresses could lead to a lot of confusion. As one 1937 article noted:

        A recent news account states that the Fred Smiths of New York City have had so much trouble in being identified by their creditors, the courts, and even their friends, that they have joined together in forming the Fred Smiths, Incorporated, to serve as a clearing house for their identification problems.

        So, they had to come up with a more unique identifier. The Social Security number, now used by most agencies and businesses to identify individuals, is the one they landed on.

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        How To Decipher A Social Security Number

        This information isn’t really a secret. It just isn’t very well known. According to the Social Security Administration, your nine-digit Social Security Number is divided into three parts:1. The first three digits are known as the “area number”. Until June 25, 2011, this is generally the State or territory where your SSN was assigned. Thereafter, the number was randomly assigned.2. The second two numbers are known as the “group numbers”. They really do not have any geographical or data significance.3. The third set of four numbers is simply the numerical sequence of digits 0001 to 9999 issued within each group.By using the first three numbers of anyone’s SSN, you can often tell in which State they were born, or at the least, one of the States where they once lived. Try it!

        Social Security “Area Code” Number Chart
        The first three digits of a Social Security Number correspond to locations as follows:

        At The Doctors Office

        Patient forms from your doctor may request your SSN, but its not necessary to provide it. It is your insurance policy number your insurance company needs in order to bill you and submit payments. The IRS says you need to give your doctor your SSN if you have Medicare or other federally sponsored health care, but in all other cases, you dont.

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        What Do The Numbers Mean

        SSNs are not assigned consecutively; the first was not the lowest number, and the most recent is not the highest. They are assigned regionally and in batches.

        The nine-digit SSN, which has been issued in more than 400 million different sequences, is divided into three parts: area numbers, group numbers and serial numbers.

        • Area numbers – The first three numbers originally represented the state in which a person first applied for a Social Security card. Numbers started in the northeast and moved westward. This meant that people on the east coast had the lowest numbers and those on the west coast had the highest. Since 1972, the SSA has assigned numbers and issued cards based on the ZIP code in the mailing address provided on the original application form. Since the applicant’s mailing address doesn’t have to be the same as his residence, his area number doesn’t necessarily represent the state in which he resides. For many of us who received our SSNs as infants, the area number indicates the state we were born in. You can find out which area numbers go with each state at Social Security Number Allocations.
        • Group numbers – These two middle digits, which range from 01 through 99, are simply used to break all the SSNs with the same area number into smaller blocks, which makes administration easier.
        • Serial numbers – Within each group designation, serial numbers — the last four digits in an SSN — run consecutively from 0001 through 9999.

        Its Ultimately About Trust

        Social Security number

        Employers primarily run background checks as a baseline for establishing trust with a new employee. While a social security number does not tell the whole story, it provides a crucial foundation for verifying identity and building critical trust, without which any background report is essentially unreliable.

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        Marriage And Divorce Records

        The general public can access most vital records. If your state has laws that allow third-party requests, your marriage or divorce records will be accessible to anyone requesting them. While having a persons Social Security number isnt required to obtain these records, it makes the search much easier.

        Next: Who signs your paychecks

        Ask Why They Want It And How It Will Be Handled

        If the business insists, ask questions. You have a right to know why its necessary to provide your SSN and how it will be handled. Ask questions such as:

        • Why is having my SSN necessary?
        • With whom will you share my number if I provide it?
        • How will my number be stored?
        • Do you have a privacy policy, and may I see it?
        • Will you cover my liability or losses if my number is stolen or compromised?

        Unfortunately, if you are asked to provide your SSN to a business or an institution that doesnt need it, and you say no, it can refuse to provide services to you or put conditions on the servicesuch as requiring a deposit or additional fees.

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        When Are Social Security Numbers Required

        I previously wrote about why a medical office would require a Social Security number, but readers reacted with a slew of more questions regarding that coveted piece of identification. Nan in Oregon wants to know who else can ask for it, Jerry in New York wonders if he could be discriminated against if he doesn’t reveal his Social Security number, and one reader may have just been duped into giving it out.

        You wrote about giving out Social Security numbers at doctors offices. Who else can ask for this information?– Nan, Ashland, Ore.

        Any business can request your Social Security number, but that doesnt mean you are legally required to give it to them. Heres the problem: Social Security numbers were never meant to be a personal identifier, but theyve become just that. Ed Mierzwinski, Consumer Programs Director at U.S. PIRG, points out that there is no law that prevents a business from discriminating against you or not doing business with you, if you do not provide the requested information.

        There are certain times when Social Security numbers must be used. This is not a complete list, but here are some of the major situations when they are required:

        • Most financial transactions
        • Tax returns
        • Medicare benefits
        • Contact with the Social Security Administration
        • Applications for a hunting, fishing or other recreational license.

        Can you refuse to provide a Social Security number on an employment application? Could this be a form of discrimination?– Jerry C., Rochester, N.Y.

        Places Where You Should Never Give Your Social Security Number

        Scam alert: your social security number is not suspended

        Every time you go to a new doctor or dentist and they give you a clipboard brimming with documents to fill out and sign, notice how they always ask for your Social Security number? Do you dutifully give it up? Did you ever wonder if they really need it?

        I once asked a doctor why he wanted it. His response: “I don’t really know. I guess it’s because we’ve always asked for it.”

        Almost every day somebody asks for your Social Security Number and, like the Grand Marshal of a parade throwing rose petals or candy to the crowd, you probably give it up without giving it a second thought — because that’s what you’ve always done.

        So, the next time someone asks you for your Social Security number, reflect on this: In December, the Army announced that hackers stole the Social Security numbers of 36,000 visitors to Fort Monmouth in New Jersey, including intelligence officers. Cyber activists took control of the CIA’s website. The private information, including some Social Security numbers, of celebrities and political leaders including FBI Director Robert Mueller and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were exposed.

        The sensitive data of First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder, recently were posted on a website for the world to see.

        Hackers even listened in on a phone call in which the FBI and Scotland Yard were discussing the criminal investigation against those very same hackers!

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        Check Your Credit Report

        The Social Security Administration can tell you if someone is working on your SSN and the IRS can tell you if someone is filing taxes on it, but only your credit agencies can tell you if someone is using your SSN to acquire and use credit in your name.

        There are three major credit reporting agencies in the United States:;Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. They each have slightly different methodologies and scoring programs, but they all more or less provide the same service.

        You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report every 12 months . By contacting each service and requesting your report, you can immediately spot any suspicious activity on your credit accounts. Look for credit card applications, loan applications, and any debt you dont recognize.

        Requesting your reports is simple:

        is a reputable service, and if you sign up for it you can keep a monthly eye on your credit score and your credit history, making it very difficult for an identity thief to put one over you in the long run.

        Use Required For Federal Tax Purposes

        Internal Revenue Code section 6109 provides: “The social security account number issued to an individual for purposes of section 205 of the Social Security Act shall, except as shall otherwise be specified under regulations of the Secretary , be used as the identifying number for such individual for purposes of this title .”

        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.

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