18 Things You Didn’t Know About Social Security Numbers

Photo (cc) by DonkeyHotey

This weekend, I was looking through the safe that holds all of my most important documents – like family birth certificates, insurance policies, and the secret recipe for mom’s sauce – when I ran across my Social Security card.

Now I’ll wager that, if you poll a room full of people at a triple-keg Super Bowl party, more than half of them wouldn’t be able to tell you the license plate number of their car – and that’s before the kickoff. However, if you asked those same folk to recite their Social Security number, they would all be able to do it forward and backward – even after the kegs are empty.

If you’re like me, maybe you’ve wondered if there was any rhyme or reason to how Social Security numbers are determined. Well, wonder no more, because while you were out enjoying the weekend, I was sitting here in my chair researching the story behind our Social Security numbers. I know. Don’t say a word.

Anyway, here’s what I found out…

1. Since 1936, more than 420 million different Social Security numbers have been issued.

2. More than 5.5 million new numbers are assigned every year.

3. The first three digits of a Social Security number are known as the area number. Area numbers assigned before 1972 reflect the state where you applied for your number. Otherwise, they are based upon the Social Security card application mailing address ZIP Code.

4. Some people believe the next two digits, called the group number, helps identify a person’s race. It doesn’t.

5. The two-digit group number was actually created as way to organize Social Security Administration filing cabinets into subgroups to make them more manageable.

6. The last four digits on a Social Security card are serial numbers that are issued consecutively within a group from 0001 to 9999.

7. Area numbers are assigned geographically with the lowest numbers in the northeast and the highest in the northwest. That practice no longer applies, however, after a new randomized assignment methodology was announced in July 2007.

8. Based upon the original assignment criterion, one would naturally expect a Maine resident to have the lowest Social Security number ever issued. However, New Hampshire was ultimately given the 001 area number designator so that Social Security number 001-01-0001 could be assigned to Social Security Board Chairman John G. Winant, who was a three-time governor of the state.

9. Winant eventually declined the honor of having the lowest Social Security number. As a result, it eventually found its way to Grace D. Owen of Concord, N.H.

10. Officially, the first Social Security number issued was 055-09-0001, and it was assigned to John David Sweeney.

11. Sweeney died of a heart attack in 1974 at the age of 61. Ironically, he never received a single penny of Social Security benefits.

12. In many cases, invalid Social Security numbers can be easily spotted. That’s because prior to June 25, 2011, no cards were issued with the first three digits off 000, 666, or higher than 772. Valid cards are also never issued with the middle two digits or the final four digits all zeros.

13. In 1938, a sample Social Security card with the number 078-05-1120 was inserted into new wallets manufactured by the E.H. Ferree company in Lockport, N.Y. Unfortunately, that number belonged to Hilda Schrader Whitcher, the secretary of an E.H. Ferree vice president who decided to use her official number on the sample cards. Nice guy, huh?

14. Not surprisingly, more than 40,000 people have since claimed Mrs. Whitcher’s Social Security number as their own at one time or another.

15. Mrs. Whitcher was eventually issued a new number, but not before being questioned by the FBI. They wanted to know why so many people had her number.

16. If you object to certain digits in your Social Security number you can appeal for a new one, but only if you can prove your concerns are firmly rooted in your religious beliefs or cultural traditions.

17. Social Security numbers are not reused after the cardholder dies.

18. Even though numbers aren’t reused, the Social Security Administration says the current numbering system is capable of providing enough new numbers for “several generations into the future.” That means Social Security numbers will still be available well past 2030. Even if the benefit money won’t.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
7 Reasons You Should Not Claim Social Security Early
7 Reasons You Should Not Claim Social Security Early

The sooner you claim your Social Security retirement benefits, the more you — and perhaps also your spouse — stand to lose. Here are the stakes.

3 Ways to Get Paid for Searching the Web
3 Ways to Get Paid for Searching the Web

If you’re already doing it anyway, why not get rewarded for it? Here are three great opportunities.

What is the Cheapest Grocery Store?
What is the Cheapest Grocery Store?

Aldi, Kroger and Walmart: Which grocery store is the cheapest?

5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles
5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles

Pushing your car to 200,000 miles — and beyond — can save you piles of cash. Here’s how to get there.

8 Surprising Things No One Tells You About Retirement
8 Surprising Things No One Tells You About Retirement

Knowing what to expect can help you prepare for — and adjust to — life in your golden years.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

Am I Eligible for My Mother’s Social Security Benefit?
Am I Eligible for My Mother’s Social Security Benefit?

Can an adult daughter tap into her late mother’s benefit?

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia
This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia

Nearly half of U.S. residents may face this threat.

Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds
Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds

Resolve to be clutter-free in 2021 with these secondhand purchases.

This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers
This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers

For the second straight year, a growing number of Americans believe they’ve fallen prey to this scam.

11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It
11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It

Seriously? Fibbing about the weather is a crime? This and other little-known legal traps await the unwary.

These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy
These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy

These vehicles boast reliability, safety and long-lasting value.

13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free
13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free

There are many ways to get cheap or free services and goods after reaching a certain age.

6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have
6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have

Few retirees have all of these documents that are crucial to their golden years — especially during a pandemic.

11 Generic Products You Should Buy at Costco
11 Generic Products You Should Buy at Costco

Not all generics are worthwhile, but these are among the best from Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand.

Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore
Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore

Starting this month, your ISP no longer can bill you for this fee.

Is This Treatable Condition Causing Your High Blood Pressure?
Is This Treatable Condition Causing Your High Blood Pressure?

Researchers say too many doctors are overlooking this potential source of hypertension.

These Major Appliances Got the Worst Reviews in 2020
These Major Appliances Got the Worst Reviews in 2020

Consumer Reports says these home products got the worst ratings from experts.

8 Tips for Retiring Comfortably on Social Security Alone
8 Tips for Retiring Comfortably on Social Security Alone

It’s never too early to start learning how to live well while living on less.

15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021
15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021

Follow these tips to save, so you’ll have money for things that really matter.

9 Small Expenses That Are Bleeding Your Budget Dry
9 Small Expenses That Are Bleeding Your Budget Dry

Keep more of future paychecks by eliminating these budget-busting unnecessary expenses.

3 Cable TV Companies Hiking Prices for 2021
3 Cable TV Companies Hiking Prices for 2021

Still married to your cable company? Hold on to your wallet!

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.