Each legal resident of the United States is assigned a Social Security Number, and it serves a critical purpose in identification. These numbers are used for a variety of things, including taxes, benefits, signing up for loans, and much more. If you qualify for a Social Security Number, it is important to get one as soon as possible and to know what you have to do to get it, to understand what it is used for, and to be careful when providing it to outside parties.

What is a Social Security Number Used For?

Social Security Numbers were put in place in 1935 when The New Deal was put into effect. Initially, the Social Security Number was designed simply as a way to track wage earnings and provide benefits for those who qualified.

However, this number now serves a variety of other purposes as well. Social Security Numbers are used for tax purposes, disability benefits, retirement benefits, credit score monitoring, getting approved for credit and loans, employment verification, purchasing automobiles and homes, opening bank accounts, and much more.

How Does a Social Security Number Work?

Social Security Numbers are provided to all U.S. legal residents, including citizens, permanent residents, and temporary or working residents. These numbers consist of nine digits in the format XXX-XX-XXXX. If your Social Security Number was issued after 2011, your nine-digit number will be completely random. However, before 2011, there was a method to assigning these numbers.

The first set of three numbers was assigned as an “area number.” This number was assigned based on the geographical region in which your Social Security Card was issued. Now, this region was not necessarily the region in which a person lived, as they were allowed to register at any Social Security office. These numbers were loosely assigned starting in the northeast and moving westward, with the highest numbers being provided to those living on the west coast.

The next two numbers in the set are the “group number.” These range from 01 to 99 but were not assigned in consecutive order. Instead, they were assigned with the odd numbers 01 through 09, then the even numbers 10 to 98. After that, the even numbers 02 to 08 were assigned, followed by the odd numbers 11 to 99. After 99 was reached, the next “area number” would be used starting back at 01.

The last four digits are known as the “serial number.” These numbers run from 0001 to 9999 and are assigned in order based on a person’s group number. While everyone’s Social Security Number is different, you will be able to tell the relative area where a person is from based on their first three digits if they received their number prior to 2011.

How to Get a Social Security Number

If you are looking to get a Social Security Number issued, you’ll need to file an application with the Social Security Administration. The Social Security Administration will require you to file Form SS-5, which is used for obtaining a new card, replacing a card, or changing a number. If you do require a number, you will need to visit a local Social Security office to file your application, but there is no fee associated with obtaining a Social Security Number.

Identify Theft

Social Security Numbers are connected to your personal information, but there are no biometrics attached. This means that you must provide physical documentation as proof, and a person could gain access to your Social Security Number and use it. This fact also means that it is more likely to be stolen for identity theft and used for fraud.

It is always important to keep your Social Security information private. You should also be cognizant any time you are asked to provide your Social Security Number. If you are asked to supply it, be sure it is on a secure website and that you are only providing your information to those you trust.

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