The Social Security Number

A Social Security Number is another type of attributed identifier, which is used in the United States. Social Security numbers consist of a nine digit number, broken up into 3 groups.

  • First Three Digits: The first three numbers of a social security number indicates the state the person was born in if it was issued prior to 1972. In numbers issued after 1972, the first three digits corresponds to the state given on the social security application, which is not always the same as the birth location.
  • Next Two Digits: The next two numbers are issued in a pattern of either odd 01-09, even 10-98, even 02-08, or odd 11-99.
  • The Last Four Digits: The last four digits are issued in order from 0001 to 9999.

How are Social Security Numbers Distributed?

In most cases, a social security number is applied for at the same time as the birth certificate, with the agency that manages the birth certificate, forwarding the necessary information to the Social Security Administration.

However, prior to 2002, the Social Security Administration did not actually contact the state to validate the information.

Adults can apply for a social security number, providing they can furnish two documents that establish not only age, but also citizenship. However, those over the age of 12 will need to also participate in a face to face interview, during which it is necessary to explain why they do not already have a Social Security Number.

How Are Social Security Numbers Used?

In the United States, the Social Security Number is used in almost all transactions. Until very recently, they were also used as public identifying numbers, such as for a frequent flier program, which starkly illustrates how insecure these numbers actually are as an identifier.

In the hands of a criminal, it is possible to obtain loans, driver licenses, and credit cards. This is because even though Social Security Numbers are no longer used as a public identifier, they are still used to prove identity in virtually every institution from your bank to your cell phone provider. As a result, knowing someones address and Social Security Number can provide access to most aspects of their life.

This is of course illegal, but due to how easy it is to find a Social Security Number, it goes against all common sense that it is such an intricate part of ones identity.

The UK National Insurance Number

In the United Kingdom, the UK National Insurance Number provides a similar function to the Social Security Number, although it is used only for taxation and social security benefits.

Each child is given a National Insurance Number when they near their 16th birthday, providing the child benefit has been paid. It is nine characters long, consisting of both letters and numbers.

Unlike in the US, the National Insurance Number has not invaded all aspects of life, so it is not used it to get a credit card or a loan. However, it can be used to commit tax fraud or help facilitate illegal immigration.

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