To combat identity theft and expand the amount of available SSNs, the issuance mechanism was revised in 2011. As a result, some numbers were excluded.
Prior to 2011, when the Social Security Administration changed its approach for issuing nine-digit Social Security Numbers, the agency relied on a mechanism to aid in pre-computer era record filing. The first three digits denoted the geographical area in which an applicant’s mailing address was located, while the following six were divided into two groups for the purpose of collating worker records.
However, as the country progressed and an increasing number of people settled in previously sparsely inhabited areas at the time the program was founded, the Social Security Administration’s regional allocation of numbers became constrained. To accomplish two objectives at once, the agency created a randomized numbering technique, although some number combinations were avoided.
Randomization of SSNs
Despite internet allegations, previous to the 2011 transition, the numbers on Social Security cards were very commonplace for clerical usage. Initially, the first three digits indicated the state in which the card was issued, but not necessarily the state of origin of the cardholder. Because all cards were issued from a single location in Maryland beginning in 1973, the first three digits were determined depending on the applicant’s Zip Code. By discontinuing the Zip Code-based allocation numbers scheme and implementing randomness, the agency was able to maintain the nine-digit Social Security Number in all areas of the country without requiring significant adjustments. Additionally, it provided additional security against identity theft.
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Verifying Social Security Numbers
Employers and third parties are permitted by the Social Security Administration to verify employees’ and new hires’ Social Security numbers. The Social Security Number Verification Service can be used to verify that a business’ records match those maintained by Social Security for wage reporting purposes (Form W-2).
Two methods of verification are available through the agency’s online tool. One provides instant results but only allows for the verification of ten names at a time. A second option enables a business to overnight upload files containing up to 250,000 names and Social Security numbers. By the next government business day, the results should be available.