Your Social Security number may not be unique to you

overlapping social security logosHow many times do companies use your Social Security number as the unique identifier for you? Your doctor, bank, employer, all depend on the number for billing and recording transactions. A troubling new study by ID Analytics found that, according to the wide-ranging company and government records it has access to, millions of Americans have more than one Social Security number, and millions of Social Security numbers are shared by more than one person.

Just how many? Out of the 280 million Social Security numbers the firm studied across its network of databases,
  • More than 20 million people have more than one number associated with their name.
  • More than 40 million numbers are associated with more than one person.
  • More than 100,000 Americans have 5 or more numbers associated with their name.
  • More than 27,000 Social Security numbers are associated with 10 or more people.

How does this happen? Many are doubtless due to bad memories, careless record-keeping or data input errors. Others are due to identity theft.

The company offers to check your identity for identity fraud free at MyIDScore.com; however, it wasn't able to verify me (and I'm very verifiable) and the personal information you share is collected in an opt-out manner. That is, you'll have to send the company an e-mail to stop it from using your data to "make our fraud prevention tools better."

There is a method to the assignment of Social Security numbers which can help a little bit in spotting frauds. The first three digits are determined by where you lived when you received your number; 596 to 599, for example, are issued to residents of Puerto Rico (yes, it's part of the United States). The higher the number, the further west you lived at the time you received your number. There are no Social Security numbers starting with 900-999.

The middle two digits identify when the card was issued; 184-50 was issued in Pennsylvania in 1973, for example. There are no numbers with the middle two digits of 00.

The final four digits are assigned in numerical order.

Check yours with this handy decoder.

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