Prior to the 2011 methodology change for how the Social Security Administration issued nine-digit Social Security numbers, the agency used a system to help archive the pre-computer era. The first three digits indicated the geographic area of an applicant’s mailing address, while the remaining six were divided into two groups to collect employee data.
As the country grew and more and more people settled in once sparsely populated areas when the program was set up, the allocation of numbers for regions by the Social Security Administration was on the rocks. Killing two birds with one stone, the agency implemented a random numbering scheme, but there were some number combinations that were avoided.
Social Security Administration Randomizes SSNs
Despite rumors on the internet, the numbers on Social Security cards before the 2011 switch were pretty mundane for administrative use. At the beginning, the first three digits represented the state in which the card was issued but not necessarily the state where the cardholder came from. Beginning in 1973, all cards were issued from the Maryland headquarters, so the first three digits were assigned based on an applicant’s zip code.
By removing the zip code based assignment numbering system with the shift to randomization the agency was able to extend the life of the nine-digit social security number in all parts of the country without major changes. It also had the added benefit of providing additional protection against identity theft.
Before the changes the number “8” and “9” were not used for the first digit and “7” was reserved for specific groups such as railway workers. Also no social security numbers were issued with “000” or “666” for the first three digits. As of 2011, Social Security numbers can now use “7” and “8” for the first digit, regardless of region or type of work. However, Social Security Numbers are not issued with “9” as the first digit or starting with “000” or “666”.
Likewise, just as before the switch to randomization, the the fourth and fifth digits will never be “00” or “0000” in the last four positions.
One person used a single Social Security number to file unemployment insurance claims in 40 states. Twenty-nine states paid and sent $222,532.https://t.co/WBKn8mVzTX
— ProPublica (@propublica) September 14, 2021
Verify Social Security Numbers
The Social Security Administration allows employers and third parties to: verify the social security numbers of employees and new hires. The Social Security Number Verification Service can be used to confirm that a company’s records match Social Security records for the purpose of wage reporting (form W-2).
The agency’s online tool offers two verification methods. One gives a user immediate results but only allows verification of 10 names at a time. A second option allows a company to upload files of up to 250,000 names and social security numbers overnight. The results should be available the next business day from the government.