Social Security Randomization
On June 25, 2011, SSN issuance changed from an ordered issuance system to a random issuance system. This change was needed to protect Americans against identity theft.
The changes only apply to new SSNs. All Social Security Numbers issued before 2011 reveal where and when the number was issued which is often the same as where the cardholder was born. Lookup Social Security Numbers by state and year of issuance.
Original Unsecured Issuance System
In 1936 the first Social Security Number was issued. SSNs were designed to track the earnings of an individual throughout their life. Social Security is a contribution-based program, rather than an entitlement program. This means that people get back what they pay into the system. SSNs were used to track what people had paid into the program.
When SSNs where originally distributed, the Social Security Administration broke the numbers into groups based on the first three digits of the 9-digit SSN.
Groups were assigned to each state with larger states getting larger blocks of numbers. You can read more about how these groups work in Decoding SSNs.
Social Security Issuance Redesign
In 1936, security was not a significant factor in the design of the SSN system. Over the years, Social Security Numbers began being to be used for more purpose than for which they were originally designed. SSNs began to be used to identify Americans for important matters such as credit reports and opening bank accounts.
It is also important to recognize that a segmented issuance system for SSNs was necessary before the advent of the Internet and near-instantaneous communication around the world. In 1936, a random issuance system would have resulted in duplicate SSNs begins assigned.
Suddenly it was imperative to keep your Social Security Numbers private in order to prevent identify theft and other crimes. The existing SSN system made it easy to guess an individual's SSN with only their birth place and year.
Overhauling SSN Issuance to Protect your Privacy
In order to protect people from identity theft, the Social Security Administration randomized SSN issuance on June 11, 2011. After that date, the rules for decoding SSNs no longer apply.
Note: All data used in our SSN Tools only apply to pre-2011 SSNs.
Protect Your SSN
It has never been more important to keep your Social Security Numbers private. Because of how SSNs where issued before 2011, these numbers are surprisingly easy to guess. Thanks to the work on the Social Security Administration to overhaul the SSN issuance system, it will be easier for Americans to protect their SSNs and their identities in the future.