What Does Your Social Security Number Say About You?

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Posted by: David Garcia October 11, 2023

If you’ve ever applied for a credit card, loan, or job, you’ve likely been asked for your Social Security number. 

It follows you from birth to death and serves as a key identifier to your sensitive information. And if you’re a company that needs to hire, then you need a candidate’s Social Security number to help run background checks. 

Having their Social Security number helps ensure that you’re hiring the person that the application claims them to be. 

In this post, you’ll learn all about the Social Security number, including how it started, what it reveals, and its limitations. 

The Origin of the Social Security Number

The Social Security number was first introduced as part of the Social Security Act, originally designed to provide financial support for retired workers. 

President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the program to help American citizens during times of economic hardship, such as the loss of a primary wage earner, disability, or retirement.

The SSN was used as a means of tracking worker’s earnings and contributions to the Social Security program. It served as a unique identifier for each individual, allowing the government to keep accurate records of income. The SSN system was essential for determining eligibility and calculating benefits for retirees and their dependents.

However, over time, the use of Social Security numbers has expanded, and today, over 450 million different numbers have been issued. Now, it’s one of the primary methods for personal identification and record keeping. 

Social Security numbers are often used during employment verification, tax reporting, credit card applications, loan forms, and access to government services. 

To obtain a Social Security number, all you have to do is complete the Form SS-5 application. You’ll need to meet all the requirements, such as proof of identity, documentation that proves age, and immigration status or US citizenship. 

Understanding the Structure of the Social Security Number

Social Security numbers are randomly assigned to people and use a long-standing nine-digit format. 

Particularly, there are three primary components to the SSN: 

Area Number

The first three digits are also known as the area number. Historically, these digits used to reflect the geographic location where the SSN was issued, helping to categorize individuals based on their place of residence. However, this connection to geography has been abandoned, and modern SSNs now receive Area Numbers randomly. 

Anyone who applied for an SSN between 1972 and 2011 would have an area number correlating to the mailing address on their application. 

The Group Number 

After the area number, there are two digits called the group number. These numbers range from 01 to 99 and are also assigned randomly. 

In the past, the group number served as an internal administrative designation by the Social Security Administration. But today, it no longer holds any specific informational value. 

The Serial Number 

The serial number is the last four digits of the SSN and ranges from 0001 to 9999. It’s assigned consecutively in each group number, which ensures that each SSN is unique. It allows for identifying individuals within the same group so that no two individuals have the same number. 

What Information Does a Social Security Number Reveal?

Your Social Security number serves as the primary means to confirm your identity. It’s uniquely tied to your name and date of birth

In cases where individuals share common names, additional details like your middle name, driver’s license number, and previous addresses help establish your specific identity. 

Also, Social Security numbers play a central role in tracking various personal transactions.

Social Security numbers can be relevant in a comprehensive background check

Background checks draw information from multiple sources, including mailing records, public databases, and credit agencies.

You’d be surprised by what actually shows up on a background check, especially an SSN trace. 

For instance, ScoutLogic’s SSN trace can confirm whether an SSN is valid and validate the person’s name matches the social security record. It may also reveal any known aliases or variations of the individual’s name, which can be useful for cross-referencing and identity verification. The trace can even check the counties in which someone has worked, lived, or had financial transactions. 

However, this type of check shouldn’t be used alone and doesn’t guarantee that the candidate is who they claim to be, but rather if the SSN is valid and that it matches the date of birth and name the candidate provided.

Limitations of the Social Security Number

Unfortunately, the Social Security number doesn’t come without flaws. In fact, SSNs are vulnerable to identity theft and fraud. If someone obtains your SSN, they can potentially access your financial accounts, open new credit lines, and engage in fraudulent activities. 

One of the most common mistakes in doing background checks is only performing an SSN trace. That’s because they can’t be used as the sole source for identity verification. Since identity theft is possible, you’ll want to always check for multiple verification sources.

Also, criminal records aren’t inherently linked to Social Security numbers (SSNs), and this might come as a surprise to many. An individual’s criminal charges may or may not include their SSN, making a clean criminal record check using SSN alone less informative. While it serves as a starting point, it certainly doesn’t offer the complete picture.

That’s why it’s important to perform multiple types of background checks, such as checking criminal records, credit checks, and others. Doing so will help to provide a complete picture of a person’s background, which is crucial, especially for important decisions like hiring a new employee, granting a bank loan, etc. 

Final Thoughts

Background checks are a standard practice for employers looking to hire new staff members. A bad hire can put others at risk, especially if you’re hiring for safety-sensitive positions. When you hire the right person, you reduce the chances of workplace injuries, accidents, and potential legal battles. 

If you want reliable and fast comprehensive background check services, ScoutLogic offers a wide range of background search types. You’re sure to find a screening method for your needs, such as drug testing, criminal searches, education verification, SSN trace, and more. 

Contact ScoutLogic today and trust us to provide accurate background checks for your candidates. 

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