Social Security Numbers Decoded

The Tao of Making Money has collected a bunch of interesting facts about Social Security Numbers, for example:

Did you know that 078-05-1120 is the most stolen social security number ever? Over 40,000 people have claimed that this number, belonging to a secretary of an wallet manufacturing executive, is their own. From the SSA:

In 1938, wallet manufacturer the E. H. Ferree company in Lockport, New York decided to promote its product by showing how a Social Security card would fit into its wallets. A sample card, used for display purposes, was inserted in each wallet. Company Vice President and Treasurer Douglas Patterson thought it would be a clever idea to use the actual SSN of his secretary, Mrs. Hilda Schrader Whitcher.

The wallet was sold in Woolworth’s and even though the card was half the size of a real one and printed all in red, 40,000 people “ID thefted” the number. Eventually, Ms. Whitcher was issued a new SSN.

…Or did you know that social security numbers are not issued in sequence? Or that the first set of numbers increases from northeast to southwest, depending on where you were born? Or that the first Social Security number was issued to someone who died before collecting benefits? Or that the first payment was $.17? Ah, trivia! —MEGHANN MARCO

Interesting Facts About Social Security Numbers [The Tao of Making Money]


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  1. acambras says:

    My sister and I have almost identical SSNs, except that mine ends in 59 and hers ends in 70. Strange because she’s older. Also strange because what happened to the numbers ending in 60 through 69? Did Mom get my number, go to lunch, then get my sister’s? I’ll have to ask her about that…

    Like Meghann, I loves me some trivia.

  2. boston515 says:

    SSNs are recycled. 7 years after use of the number has stopped, the number is given to a new born. Use of a number post-mortem includes a widow receiving her husband’s pension or a child receiving the benefits of a deceased parent.

  3. zaq2g says:

    my ssn and my two siblings ssn’s are all sequential as we were all registered on the same day, even though there is a seven year difference between the oldest and youngest.

  4. zolielo says:

    @boston515: As far as I have read it it not. To add a bit of evidence to that they are not recycled is the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) which lists the SSN of dead people. If I remember correctly the SSN is not protected in anyway.

  5. zolielo says:

    Thee SSN of dead people is not protected in any way.

  6. cuyahoga says:

    My mom and uncle’s numbers are sequential. They were registered at the same time.

  7. juri squared says:


    I was wondering about this myself. My brother’s SSN is very similar to mine, also.

    Judging from what I learned in the article, it’s because we were born at the same hospital, and therefore have the same originating zip code and information. I wonder if everyone born there in that timespan has a similar number?

  8. TampaShooters says:

    Pretty funny! As for decoding the numbers, that isn’t rocket science or a big secret, it tells you what all of the numbers mean on the SSA website.

  9. missdona says:

    It’s not where you’re born, Meghann (or writer of article), it’s where you live when it’s issued. I was born in NY (where every one has 0xx or 1xx) numbers, but had mine issued in KY, where I have a 4xx.

  10. thrillhouse says:

    Or that the first payment was $.17? Ah, trivia!

    Will probably be the last payment too

  11. MAS90 says:

    What I have always wanted to know is if Conjoined twins get 1 number or 2…

  12. Little Miss Moneybags says:

    I used to know exactly what the sequence was for the entire string. Something about how the first three note where you were born/where the number was issued, the second two were a combination of your mother’s and your father’s SSNs (this is true for my sister and I). I forget what the last four were, but in that sequence the first two meant one thing and the second two meant another. This is why my sister’s SSN and mine are very similar–first three are one digit off (she was born one town over from where I was), middle two are the same (first is the first digit of my father’s SSN, seconds is the second digit of my mother’s SSN) and the last four are radically different from each other.

    Of course, if SSNs are recycled in their entirety, that sort of negates the theory I’ve heard all my life and described above.

  13. acambras says:


    Are you sure the thing with the middle pair of numbers isn’t a coincidence? Because mine doesn’t follow that pattern.

    Also, what happens if an SSN applicant (e.g., a newly naturalized citizen) has parents that don’t have SSNs (which they wouldn’t need if they don’t live in the U.S.)?

  14. gardencat says:

    A few years back, when I worked in HR I met a woman whose SS# matched mine except for the last two digits. We were born two months apart in the same year, but different nearby cities and applied for our SS cards when we were sixteen. We jokingly concurred that we may have actually stood in the same line together at the SS office and probably carried on a conversation.

  15. hop says:

    i was born at an early age, so my number is different from everyone else….

  16. acambras says:


    Sometimes I think that’s what must have happened when I spot a car whose license plate number is very close to mine. Some sort of DMV deja vu…

  17. BigDawg says:

    I believe the correct statement is that that social security numbers are not issued in sequence any more. My father died in the 60 and only then did my mother request SSN for her 5 sons. Guess what? All 5 cards are in sequence.

  18. Michael Bauser says:

    Good God, people, if you would actually follow the link in the article, you would see most of the bullshit being spread in the comments here isn’t true!

    Among other things, the article quotes the Social Security Administration website as explaining dead people’s numbers aren’t recycled.

    Also, pretty much everything Scarfish wrote isn’t true.