What are the numbers on the back of my social security card?

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The Social Security Act was passed in 1935 long before computers. So that officials responsible for maintaining records can do so in an orderly manner, a system was designed to more easily catalog social security numbers and assign numbers across the country.

However, just like with the symbols on a dollar bill, the ether world is full of theories about what the numbers mean on a Social Security card. Some think they are for nefarious purposes, while others might get you in legal trouble.

Myths Surrounding Social Security Numbers

As the saying goes, “A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth steps in.” This is true of inventions regarding social security numbers and numbers on the backs of social security cards. Despite all efforts to educate the public about the benign and mundane nature of both, rumors and myths continue to circulate about what they are really for.

Your social security number is a secret bank account

This myth could put you in hot water and even if the The Federal Reserve issued a warning years ago, it reappeared with the covid-19 pandemic. The story goes that people have a private “secret” account at the Federal Reserve and that they can pay bills or withdraw money from the account using the Fed’s routing number and their social security number.

First of all, an individual cannot have an account with the Federal Reserve. The Fed is the central bank of the United States and manages transactions between institutions, not individuals. The routing numbers used by the institution are used to sort payments and are not like those used by a retail bank. Trying to pay your bills this way could result in late penalties and potential criminal charges according to the Fed.

Social security numbers used for racial discrimination

The claim that businesses, universities, and banks can determine a candidate’s race based on their social security number dates back at least to 1999. Snopes.com looked into it at the time but the myth, like the first, made a comeback during the pandemic on one of the favorite platforms for spreading fake news, Facebook. The Social Security Administration, aware of the myth, published why they think the idea came up.

Facebook posts claimed, as over 20 years ago, that the fifth digit of your social security number indicated your racial identity. According to the myth, if the fifth digit of your social security number is an odd number then you are white and if it is even you are not white. The Social Security Administration claims that it is because the fifth digit is part of the series of numbers called the “group number”. The agency emphasizes that when applying for a social security number, it is voluntary to mark on the form what ethnicity you belong to.

How are social security numbers assigned?

The social security administration in 2008 had issued more than 450 million Social security numbers. Since then, the American population has grown by almost ten percent. In 2011, the agency changed the way it issued new numbers using a “randomization” to treat. It was for “Help protect the integrity” of numbers and “extend the longevity of the nine-digit SSN nationwide.”

Before the change, the nine number diagram has been divided into three categories of numbers; zone, group and series.

The first three digits represent a geographic region of where the card request was made.

The second set of two digits “Has no geographic significance or particular data” according to the agency. The “group numbers” have not been assigned in consecutive order and are “Used to divide numbers into blocks of convenient size” for processing and controlling the quantity of numbers assigned to states and regions. The administration started with odd numbers and then used even numbers.

The last four digits go consecutively from 0001 to 9999 in each assigned group, therefore those who enter a new group have a lower number first.

What are the numbers on the back of a social security card?

The numbers on the back of a Social Security card also have their own conspiracy theories. Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum did some research after reading a item by his colleague David Corn who you were told that the numbers indicated the bank to which you belonged. According to the story, when you were born, you were set up as a “guarantee for the banks”.

Tumble provides blog posts of those looking for similar information and led down the path of conspiracy. However, his research revealed that once again, the numbers have no sinister use but are simply a tool for managing social security numbers. A federal employee told him the numbers are for inventory control so that each blank card printed can be taken into account.

Social Security cards are printed much like dollar bills, even on paper of banknotes when possible, and have a serial number with others security functions to prevent them from being counterfeited. The number on the back can help the agency verify whether a particular card is legitimate or fake when checked against the Social Security Administration database, then correlated with the Social Security number and name on the card.


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