Social Security number


Social Security number

In the United States, a Social Security number (SSN) is a 9-digit number issued to citizens, permanent residents, and temporary (working) residents under section 205(c)(2) of the Social Security Act, codified as uscsub|42|405|c|2. The number is issued to an individual by the Social Security Administration, an agency of the U.S. Federal Government. Its primary purpose is to track individuals for taxation purposes. In recent years the SSN has become a "de facto" national identification number. [cite news |first=Jim |last=Kouri |title=Social Security Cards: De Facto National Identification |url=http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/viewArticle.asp?articleID=3911 |work=American Chronicle |date=March 9, 2005 ] A social security number may be obtained by applying on Form SS–5, "Application for A Social Security Number Card" (see USCFR|20|422|103(b)) [Electronic Code of Federal Regulations (e-CFR) [http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=ecfr&sid=1f44b0b2d29494a56c636084fa56c1fb&rgn=div8&view=text&node=20:2.0.1.1.12.2.479.2&idno=20 20 C.F.R. 422.103] ] .

History

The first SSNs were issued by the Social Security Administration in November 1936 as part of the New Deal Social Security program. Within three months, 25 million numbers were issued. [ [http://www.ssa.gov/history/1930.html Social Security Online ] ]

Before 1986, people often did not have a Social Security number until the age of about 14, since they were used for income tracking purposes, and those under that age seldom had substantial income. In 1986, American taxation law was altered so that individuals over 5 years old without Social Security numbers could not be successfully claimed as dependents on tax returns; by 1990 the threshold was lowered to 1 year old, [cite web |url=http://www.socialsecurity.gov/history/ssn/ssnchron.html |title= Social Security Number Chronology |publisher=Social Security Administration ] and was later abolished altogether. Since then, parents have often applied for Social Security numbers for their children soon after birth; today, it can be done on the application for a birth certificate.cite web |url=http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10023.html |title=Social Security Numbers For Children |publisher=Social Security Administration ]

Purpose and use

The original purpose of this number was to track individuals' accounts within the Social Security program. It has since come to be used as an identifier for individuals within the United States, although rare errors occur where duplicates do exist. Employee records, patient records, student records, and credit records are sometimes indexed by Social Security number. The U.S. military has used the Social Security number as an identification number for the Army and Air Force since July 1, 1969, the Navy and Marine Corps since January 1, 1972, and the Coast Guard since October 1, 1974. [cite web |url=http://www.archives.gov/st-louis/military-personnel/social-security-numbers.html |title= National Personnel Records Center |publisher=National Archives ]

Non-universal status

Social Security was originally a universal tax, but when Medicare was passed in 1965, objecting religious groups in existence prior to 1951 were allowed to opt out of the system. [ [http://www.amishnews.com/amisharticles/amishss.htm The Amish & Social Security ] ] Because of this, not every American is part of the Social Security program, and not everyone has a number. However, a social security number is required for parents to claim their children as dependents for federal income tax purposes, and the Internal Revenue Service requires all corporations to obtain SSNs (or alternative identifying numbers) from their employees, as described below. Americans who agree to pay extra taxes and do not work for corporations can continue to live without Social Security. The Old Order Amish have fought to prevent universal Social Security by overturning rules such as a requirement to provide a Social Security number for a hunting license. [ [http://www.wrn.com/gestalt/go.cfm?objectid=6E7B888F-6327-4D95-B271DE48F658C73F Wisconsin Radio Network: Amish hunters can get hunting licenses without social security numbers ] ] Social Security Cards up until the 1980s expressly stated the number and card were not to be used for identification purposes. Since nearly everyone in the United States now has a number, it became convenient to use it anyway and the message was removed. [ [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C02EFD71039F935A15754C0A96E958260 The Nation; Not for Identification Purposes (Just Kidding) - New York Times ] ]

Although some people do not have an SSN assigned to them, it is becoming increasingly difficult to engage in legitimate financial activities such as applying for a loan or a bank account without one. [ [http://www.scribd.com/doc/2682567/Social-Security-Number-Not-Required Social Security Number Not Required ] ] Corporations are not required to employ persons without a number. [http://home.hiwaay.net/~becraft/ScottSSNLetter.pdf]

Federal taxpayer identification number

The Internal Revenue Code provides that " [t] he social security account number issued to an individual for purposes of section 205(c)(2)(A) of the Social Security Act shall, except as shall otherwise be specified under regulations of the Secretary [of the Treasury or his delegate] , be used as the identifying number for such individual for purposes of this title." See uscsub|26|6109|d.

Individuals who require an identification number to file tax returns, but are not eligible for a Social Security number, are issued an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number by the IRS.

Types of Social Security cards

Three different types of Social Security cards are issued. The most common type contains the cardholder's name and number. Such cards are issued to U.S. citizens and U.S. permanent residents. There are also two restricted types of Social Security cards:
*One reads "NOT VALID FOR EMPLOYMENT." Such cards cannot be used as proof of work authorization, and are not acceptable as a List C document on the I-9 form.
*The other reads "VALID FOR WORK ONLY WITH DHS AUTHORIZATION." These cards are issued to people who have temporary work authorization in the U.S. They can satisfy the I-9 requirement, if they are accompanied by a work authorization card.

In 2004 Congress passed The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act; parts of which mandated that the Social Security Administration redesign the Social Security Number (SSN) Card to prevent forgery. From April 2006 through August, 2007, Social Security Administration (SSA) and Government Printing Office (GPO) employees were assigned to redesign the Social Security Number Card to the specifications of the Interagency Task Force created by the Commissioner of Social Security in consultation with the secretary of Homeland Security.

The new SSN card design utilizes both covert and overt cutting edge security features created by the SSA and GPO design teams.

Identity theft

Many citizens and privacy advocates are concerned about the disclosure and processing of Social Security numbers.

The SSN is frequently used by those involved in identity theft, since it is interconnected with so many other forms of identification, and because people asking for it treat it as an authenticator. The SSN is generally required by financial institutions to set up bank accounts, credit cards, and obtain loans, partially because it is assumed that no one except the person to whom it was issued will know it.

Exacerbating the problem of using the social security number as an identifier is the fact that the social security card contains no biometric identifiers of any sort, making it essentially impossible to tell whether a person using a certain SSN is truly the person to whom it was issued without relying on some other means of documentation (which may itself have been falsely procured through use of the fraudulent SSN). Congress has proposed federal laws that will restrict the use of SSNs for identification and ban their use for a number of commercial purposes, e.g. rental applications. [ [http://news.com.com/Congress+may+slap+restrictions+on+SSN+use/2100-7348_3-6071441.html?tag=nefd.top Congress may slap restrictions on SSN use - CNET News.com ] ]

The IRS offers alternatives to SSNs in some places where providing untrusted parties with identification numbers is essential. Tax preparers can acquire a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) to include on their client's tax returns (as part of signature requirements). Day care services have tax benefits, and even a sole proprietor should give parents an EIN (employer identification number) to use on their tax return.

The Social Security Administration has suggested that, if asked to provide his or her Social Security number, a citizen should ask which law requires its use. [cite web|url=http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10002.html#protect|title= Your Social Security Number And Card, "How can I protect my Social Security number?" |publisher=Social Security Administration ]

Structure

:"Information from (from http://www.socialsecurity.gov/history/ssn/geocard.html)"

The Social Security number is a nine-digit number in the format "AAA-GG-SSSS". The number is divided into three parts.

* The Area Number, the first three digits, is assigned by the geographical region. Prior to 1973, cards were issued in local Social Security offices around the country and the Area Number represented the office code in which the card was issued. This did not necessarily have to be in the area where the applicant lived, since a person could apply for their card in any Social Security office. Since 1973, when SSA began assigning SSNs and issuing cards centrally from Baltimore, the area number assigned has been based on the ZIP code in the mailing address provided on the application for the original Social Security card. The applicant's mailing address does not have to be the same as their place of residence. Thus, the Area Number does not necessarily represent the State of residence of the applicant, neither prior to 1973, nor since.

Generally, numbers were assigned beginning in the northeast and moving westward, so that people on the east coast had the lowest numbers and those on the west coast had the highest numbers. As the areas assigned to a locality are exhausted, new areas from the pool are assigned, so some states have noncontiguous groups of numbers.

:" [http://www.socialsecurity.gov/employer/stateweb.htm Complete list of area number groups from the Social Security Administration] "

* The middle two digits are the "group number". They have no special geographic or data significance but merely serve to break the number into conveniently sized blocks for orderly issuance.

* There is a theory that the two middle digits can be used to identify a person's ethnic background. This is debunked as an urban legend on [http://www.snopes.com/business/taxes/blackssn.asp snopes.com] as well as on the [http://www.socialsecurity.gov/history/ssnmyth.html Social Security Administration's website] .

The group numbers range from 01 to 99. However, they are not assigned in consecutive order. For administrative reasons, group numbers are issued in the following order:

# ODD numbers from 01 through 09
# EVEN numbers from 10 through 98
# EVEN numbers from 02 through 08
# ODD numbers from 11 through 99

As an example, group number 98 will be issued before 11.

* The last four digits are "serial numbers". They represent a straight numerical sequence of digits from 0001-9999 within the group.

Valid SSNs

Currently, a valid SSN cannot have an area number above 772, the highest area number which the Social Security Administration has allocated. [cite web |url=http://www.socialsecurity.gov/employer/stateweb.htm|title= List of valid area numbers |publisher=Social Security Administration ] . This should not be confused with Tax Identification Numbers include additional area numbers [cite web |url=http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/international/article/0,,id=96696,00.html#itin|title=Taxpayer Identification Numbers (TIN)|published=Internal Revenue Service] .

There are also special numbers which will never be allocated:

* Numbers with all zeros in any digit group (000-xx-####, ###-00-####, ###-xx-0000).cite web |url=http://ssa-custhelp.ssa.gov/cgi-bin/ssa.cfg/php/enduser/std_adp.php?p_faqid=425&p_created=972930021&p_sid=V8vXQkOi&p_accessibility=0&p_redirect=&p_lva=&p_sp=cF9zcmNoPTEmcF9zb3J0X2J5PSZwX2dyaWRzb3J0PSZwX3Jvd19jbnQ9OSw5JnBfcHJvZHM9JnBfY2F0cz0xNiZwX3B2PSZwX2N2PTEuMTYmcF9wYWdlPTEmcF9zZWFyY2hfdGV4dD12YWxpZA**&p_li=&p_topview=1 |title= FAQ on invalid SSNs |publisher=Social Security Administration ]
* Numbers of the form 666-xx-####, probably due to the potential controversy (see Number of the Beast).
* Numbers from 987-65-4320 to 987-65-4329 are reserved for use in advertisements. [cite book
last = Luna
first = J.
authorlink = J.J. Luna
title = How To Be Invisible
publisher = St. Martin's Press
p.102
year = 2004
isbn = 0-312-31906-1
]

The Administration publishes the last group number used for each area number. [cite web |url=http://www.socialsecurity.gov/employer/ssnvhighgroup.htm|title= List currently allocated group numbers for each area number. |publisher=Social Security Administration ] . Since group numbers are allocated in a regular (if unusual) pattern, it is possible to identify an unissued SSN that contains an invalid group number. Despite these measures, many fraudulent SSNs cannot easily be detected using only publicly available information.

SSNs invalidated by use in advertising

[
thumb|The_promotional_Social Security card as distributed by the F.W. Woolworth Company] 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 thought it would be clever to use the actual SSN of his secretary, Hilda Whitcher.

Even though the card was printed in red (the real card is printed in blue), was half the size of the real card, and had "Specimen" printed across the front, many people used the SSN. Over time, the number that appeared (078-05-1120) has been claimed by a total of over 40,000 people as their own.cite web |url=http://www.socialsecurity.gov/history/ssn/misused.html |title= The story of the most misused number of all time… |publisher=Social Security Administration ] The SSA initiated an advertising campaign stating that it was incorrect to use the number. (Hilda Whitcher was issued a new SSN.) However, the number was found to be in use by 12 individuals as late as 1977.

ocial Security Number miscellanea

The first SS-5 applications of a social security number were distributed to citizens (based on information from their employers) on Tuesday, November 24, 1936, after which 1,074 of the nation's 45,000 post offices were designated "typing centers" to type up social security cards which were then sent to Washington, D.C. On December 1, as part of the publicity campaign for the new program, Joseph L. Fay of the Social Security Administration selected a record from the top of the first stack of 1,000 records and announced that the first social security number in history was assigned to John David Sweeney, Jr., of New Rochelle, New York."The First SSN & The Lowest Number," http://www.ssa.gov/history/ssn/firstcard.html; "First Applicant on Pension List," "Ogden Standard Examiner" (Ogden, Ut.), December 2, 1936, p.8] Like many people whose number ended with "-0001", Sweeney had been the first person to have his information processed by a typing center in his area. He died in 1974 at the age of 61. The "lowest" social security number (001-01-0001) was the one issued to Grace D. Owen of Concord, New Hampshire (which had the 001 prefix), after two others declined to receive an "honorary" number. Miss Owen, later Mrs. Grace Muzzey, died in December 1975 at the age of 73.

See also

* National identification number
* National Insurance number (a similar number in the United Kingdom)
* Death Master File
* Social Insurance Number (a similar number in Canada)
* INSEE code (a similar number in France)
* Tax File Number (a similar number in Australia)
* Cadastro de Pessoas Físicas (similar number in Brazil)
* NIE Number (a similar number in Spain)
* PPS number (Irish system)

External links

* [http://www.socialsecurity.gov/ Social Security Administration]
* [http://ssdi.rootsweb.com/cgi-bin/ssdi.cgi Social Security Death Index] Database listing 79 million SSNs, all of which entered the public domain upon the death of their owners
* [http://www.snopes.com/business/taxes/woolssn.htm The Woolworth Card] - The SSN 078-05-1120 has been claimed by thousands of people since the late 1930s
* [http://www.socialsecurity.gov/history/ssn/misused.html Social Security Cards Issued by Woolworth] - "The story of the most misused number of all time"

References


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