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What Does Your Social Security Number Mean?

If there's one number most people have memorized, it's their Social Security number. But most Americans don't know the hidden secrets behind those nine digits.

In the following video, Dan Caplinger, The Motley Fool's director of investment planning, unravels the mystery of the Social Security number. Dan notes that until recently, the first three digits pointed to the area of the office that issued the number. The middle two digits corresponded to sequential grouping, although the order in which those numbers were assigned included some interesting quirks.

Dan points out that now, though, Social Security numbers are randomized. That is helpful to prevent identity theft, but it presented challenges for financial institutions from Bank of America  (NYSE: BAC  ) on down to the smallest local banks in verifying customer identities. With randomization, much of the mystique of the Social Security number has disappeared.

The number you should really care about
As interesting as Social Security numbers are, the key figure you have to look at is the monthly benefit you'll receive from the program. In our brand-new free report, "Make Social Security Work Harder For You," our retirement experts give their insight on making the key decisions that will help ensure a more comfortable retirement for you and your family. Click here to get your copy today.


Read/Post Comments (53) | Recommend This Article (72)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2013, at 9:00 AM, Lou1s wrote:

    Too bad this is a video, would have been interesting to read.

  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2013, at 9:29 AM, lm1b2 wrote:

    I know that if a illegal alien steals my SS number that SS will not tell ICE where it is being used so they can apprehend these criminals,and prosecute them citing privacy rules. In effect SS is protecting these criminals at the taxpayers expense.I know that if we refuse to co-operate in a criminal investigation citing privacy issues we would be arrested,and charged,yet this government agency feels it is about the law,and contributes to our illegal alien problem by its actions !

  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2013, at 9:52 AM, preacher wrote:

    Why it means that I've paid my dues since 1964 and entitled to obtain benefits right along with those that have fraudulently obtained some of the same benefits, thanks to these felon's conspiring attorneys. Whooooo-Ahhhhh!!!!!!

  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2013, at 10:11 AM, Alman2013 wrote:

    Hes right, it really doesnt mean anything now and going forward as there is a person in the white house backed by soros wallet whos identity is unknown, born in africa, raised in chicago with a connecticut social security number with out a birth certificate.

    Our fbi cant do anything about it!!! Illegal Alien, ID unknown running the Worlds Best Superpower!!

    Who is really in charge??? Does anyone Know???

  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2013, at 10:13 AM, slugwriter wrote:

    How exactly does a random v. assigned social security number change a bank's verification process for identity purposes?

    Those of us who were born before a social security number was assigned at birth, could've (like me) been born anywhere and not get a social security number until it was necessary (for work as a teenager or for a passport)...

    So... umm... what was the point of his article again?

  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2013, at 10:36 AM, stokes22 wrote:

    That our president is a fraud.

  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2013, at 10:37 AM, quacker wrote:

    when ss was sold to Americans for ss only that was the promise made to the people, one year after it was implemented the government started to change it from what was promised to what it was going to be, now you can do a thing with out the ss number,

    point is what will aca be in a year or two, more control over us by the government just like ss numbers

  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2013, at 10:41 AM, bonsaibean wrote:

    Pretty worthless article, really not telling you much at all about the secrets of the SS number.

    Still amazes me the number of really angry folks, who will find any excuse to spout their hatred.

    It must be hell to wake up every day that mad at the world.

  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2013, at 10:45 AM, Adonis2012 wrote:

    It is not about race is why this president is in hot water, it's about the ssn and how he landed in the whitehouse without proof of any until the people started tracking it down...it is time to quit playing the race card, if that is all you have got you need to stop reading this stuff and stop replying! He is totally incompetant to even run this country, look at the Obamacare finasco!

  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2013, at 10:46 AM, Astounded wrote:

    Of course, our President was born in the Okavango delta of Africa, swam all the way to Hawaii where he was raised, was later smuggled to Harvard on a false identity to lead his class at HarvardLaw, worked as an undercover operative in the Chicago Black Panther underground cell, does not have a real social security number, does not have a birth certificate, does not have a passport, has never undergone an FBI background check, and his fingerprints were erased from a childhood accident at Columbia, NY. Question: How stupid (or delusional) does one have to be and still be an American citizen?

  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2013, at 10:52 AM, BillySmith65 wrote:

    When SSN's were started, it WAS a form of identity for what it was originally designed for, retirement. In the last couple of decades, the numbers are now required at birth, just to give the government more control over your own privacy. In other words, if you elected decades ago not to file, the government would have no trace of you. Now they have constant monitoring of ALL citizens since it is now mandated. The SSN is now used to track your every movement. When it comes to any type of credit approval, you are just a number. This is just another form of control that now, not only the government, but now business has to keep people down and in control. Enough rambling. Conspiracy or not, it is wrong to be mandated anything in a "free" society!

  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2013, at 10:59 AM, TMFGalagan wrote:

    @slugwriter - It used to be that a bank could cross-check an SSN against other information like place and date of birth to get a sense of whether the number looked legitimate. In addition, the SSA kept a list of valid group numbers, so if identity thieves tried to make up SSNs, a bank could tell if it was invalid. With random numbers, that process is a lot different.

    best,

    dan (TMF Galagan)

  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2013, at 11:22 AM, klausz wrote:

    Hey guys, My SSN, issued back in 1965 shortly before I was drafted to Nam, reads 620-22-XXXX

    and I never cared whether it read 620 instead of 999-11 or 666-66

    If, the brains at DC decided for a specific order, who I am to say otherwise.

    The younger generation forgot that,only 45 years ago you would get a draft card in the mail, and your next step was to show up somewhere to get your uniform, very little training and be informed that you would have to kill some slanted eye foe.

    Hey guys, be happy all you have to worry about is the sequence of your SSN!

  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2013, at 11:40 AM, Rockyvnvmc wrote:

    Obama/Soetoro/Soebarkah/Bounel (or Whatever his Real Name is)'s SSAN was issued in Conn. While he was working at Baskin-Robbins, in Hawaii under the name of Barry Soetoro.

    The Conn. number was originally issued to a person named Harrison Bounel, who was born in the late 19th Century. (btw the social security administration does Not re-issue numbers).

    How much More Proof do you folks Need, to prove to you that he is Not who he claims to be ?

    Every singe proffered identity document, that Barry 'What's his name' has given as 'proof' of his citizenship has been forensically Proven (Beyond a Shadow of a Doubt) to be Fraudulent, by a Law Enforcement forensics investigation !

    Contact your Congressman/woman and demand that they appoint a Special Prosecutor ala 'Watergate', to fully investigate the plethora of evidence against Barry's being an American, eligible to hold the Office of the Presidency and to Remove him from said Office, ASAP !

    note; Impeachment is Not Necessary, for one who is Not Legitimately in Office .

  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2013, at 11:42 AM, ckblackm wrote:

    @klausz, thank you for your service. I really wish you didn't have to go.

    To all you spreading lies about the President, feel free to take a long walk off a short pier.

  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2013, at 12:13 PM, syzygysyzygy wrote:

    the facts are that driver licence in USA is main ID which is complete nonesense--- some dont have a licence and there are 50 of them--------- an ID should be NATIONAL!!!

  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2013, at 12:26 PM, deadalready wrote:

    Oh? And what would you say if EVERY allegation were proven beyond doubt through such investigations and all proof was made public? or would you still be a "yes man" for a God-hating radical Muslim who has for over a decade and still does support the Muslim Brotherhood? A man who supports this illegal alien invasion we're suffering from and can do nothing about because he tells the ICE to "stand down"!!!

  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2013, at 12:29 PM, Bettfy22 wrote:

    It's basically a number that imprisons you from birth , the number allows the enemy to quietly control and track your lifestyles by means of taxation . The more you work to make a better life for you and your family ,the more they will take from you to support their lavish power hungry life's , this is being done in the guise of helping your fellow man.. When it comes time to get some of your hard earned money back , you will find that it has been squandered .

    Good luck supporting everyone one else , they certainly will not be there for you when you need them..

    B

  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2013, at 12:34 PM, skyfiredancer wrote:

    Sorry, my comment is completely off topic and probably sound really dumb to a lot of you.....but the name of this website and how freely they use the word fool really bugs me.

    I'm not a religious person, but my parents were - as I was growing up calling someone a fool was the same as saying the F word......so as an adult, it REALLY bugs me. Yes, I know, really dumb. I know this goes back to biblical references, I've even Goggled them and found that there are contradictory references. Jesus says you are not to call someone a fool, but then turns around and calls people fools.

    I've seen some kids trying to be ghetto and every other word out of their mouth was "fool", one turned and talked to me, called me a fool and I tore into him. I guess one of those weird things that happens as a child that stays with you as an adult.....like the word fart, you DID NOT say that word in our house either.

    That is all.

  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2013, at 12:49 PM, KGerbil1 wrote:

    Rocky,

    Perfect post. Why didn't Trump and others go for the S.S. card instead of the birth cert.

    If it's legitimate fine, but no one has ever seen it.

  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2013, at 1:22 PM, ajlondon wrote:

    My SSN means:

    The government has it hands around my walnuts and can crack or squeeze them open anytime they want.

  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2013, at 1:52 PM, PoorManSurvivor wrote:

    My SSN is just another broken promise or as most call it, the Socialist Slave Number so bureaucrats can invade your privacy at will - despite a statement on my card which reads "Not to be Used for Identification." With the un-Patriot Act the feds now violate ALL privacy laws including the Privacy Act of 1974.

    The terrorists won the 1984 battle.

  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2013, at 2:22 PM, wheels wrote:

    Sounds like Barney from the Andy Griffith show.

  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2013, at 2:44 PM, greygramp1 wrote:

    Why do the fool liberals claim SS is an entitlement? I paid into it all my life. Entitlement is something that is free from the blacks enslaver Obama. Funny no one knows him from his past. No friends, classmates and who was his best man at his wedding? All you liberals need to look at Detroit and find out why this happened. Gee, all Democrat mayors and the idiots who work or worked for the UAW who run the auto industry out. What happened to Detroit is now happening to America. Liberals can't see the forest because the trees are in the way.

  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2013, at 3:16 PM, Govt4thegovt wrote:

    just another way to keep track of us.....................

    TOTAL CONTROL IS WHAT ITS ALL ABOUT!!!!!

    MARTIAL LAW FEMA CAMPS JUST A MATTER OF TIME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2013, at 4:00 PM, rlepriol wrote:

    The s/s number was to be used as a number for s/s benefits only. It was never to be used as a form of identification. My s/s card has NOT TO BE USED FOR IDENTIFICATION on the front of it. Now the American people have been brain washed to use it for every thing. Now every one expects you to give it out for every thing you do. You just have to stand up for your rights. Remember, (you have no rights if you don't know your rights)

  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2013, at 4:36 PM, marknie wrote:

    Very insulting to call your viewers fools. Terrible. Here are the undisputed facts. There is no such thing as a Social Security fund or account. It all goes into the general fund. Your SSN is a Ceste Que vie trust. Queen Elizabeth the 2nd is the benficiary. Each account is worth million. You will never get your original birth certificate for this reason. Only a certified copy. Of course the real fools think this information is foolish because they wont research it . .

  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2013, at 4:58 PM, nine7one wrote:

    I'm not a big fan of the vast majority of the things that have occurred during the Obama administration, but that said: At various times during the past ten years I have obtained copies of my birth, as well as the birth certificates of my three children. (my original birth certificate disintegrated years ago) Every single one I was given was identical to the one Obama provided, almost as if it were a standard-form used everywhere. So I don't get the whole Obama "birth certificate" issue. I also lost my Social Security card about a week after I got it (when I was sixteen), so I too have no "proof" of my social security status. And deadalready, I began my career as a police officer in 1984. By 1986, under President Reagan - who happens to be one of my heroes - we were told by INS (before there was an ICE) to stop arresting illegal aliens because, unless they also committed a serious crime, the INS was no longer going to take any action against them. The reason Obama-haters are so often accused of being racist is because they refuse to admit the truth of things similar to what I just mentioned. Plus, five years before Obama even ran, if I gave you a list of the ten most racist people I knew, I don't think it's a coincidence the same people would make up the list of the ten biggest Obama-haters today.

  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2013, at 6:43 PM, JTL wrote:

    To all the Obama haters: What makes you think anyone could become President of the United States of America fraudulently? Mr. Obama is an Ivy League educated Senator who was elected President. What are YOUR credentials? You haters have fallen hook, line and sinker for the biggest bullsh*t story I've ever heard. And it keeps growing. The Connecticut Social Security number issued while Mr. Obama was working at a Baskin-Robbins in Hawaii made me laugh hysterically. Did the Baskin-Robbins serve 31 flavors at that time? Were any of the flavors fraudulent? Was Barry a scooper or did he run the cash register? LOL. Well guess what, haters? He's been in the White House for nearly two terms now, so what are you going to do about it? Looks like you lose.

  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2013, at 7:11 PM, Vitabrits wrote:

    The only amusing fact I liked that wasn't mention is that some state allowed or even required your driver's license number to be your SSN. Talk about easy identity theft there.

  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2013, at 7:33 PM, scrumrob wrote:

    Sometimes, it is these little seemingly innocuous little articles that really bring out the nutters. I love reading all the crazy conspiracy theories. It's more entertaining than some Stephen King short stories. I especially get a real chuckle out of the various claims about Obama and illegal aliens.

  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2013, at 8:26 PM, yakimajack wrote:

    well the two number coinside with your age on most the last four numbers are ramdon and the frist number place you file for it and time

  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2013, at 8:33 PM, Monsterstomper5 wrote:

    Its nice to know that 'some people' have finally caught up with African-Americans in their suspicion of the ssn. When I was younger, I was told that ssn was created to track and control African-Americans and other 'undesirables'. They'd know where we lived so they could perform 'experiments'. Fortunately, I grew up and realized that the government couldn't track two copper pennies. But I'm sure there are people who get their jollies being 'scared' so more power to you. Have fun, enjoy yourselves.

  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2013, at 8:43 PM, robow11 wrote:

    Social Security numbers were never meant for identification, at least that what was printed on my original Social Security card. Right under my signature it read, "Not for Identification purposes" Now, what does that supposed to mean? Since now everyone wants your SS#!

  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2013, at 9:10 PM, WTF wrote:

    I dont know about the #s to much except sold on the stock exchange..guaranteed labor..but soon their will be a coup that for immigration reasons we will need to have a US DL that will have a chip w/ all info..really!! dont you think if we wanted to stop beaners from coming to the US..we could easily build a f'n wall no launch site could pass it...soon to come..northern americana..will this wake us up if it came to pass????..I think one knows my thinking about signing up for obamacare...LOL

  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2013, at 10:20 PM, minkien wrote:

    Another embarrassing, useless and idiotic blog/article printed by YAHOO. It is time that Yahoo should vet and stop those stupid articles, that unfortunately are necessary to keep the income coming, needed for the financial bottom line.

    Kazzone, Los Angeles, CA

  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2013, at 10:33 PM, rlepriol wrote:

    Went from ssn to Obama??????? well lets face it, Obama was elected because every one thinks he is the first black pres. Even thou he has done nothing right since he has been in office, except bankrupt America he was not the first black pres. John Hanson was the first black pres. People have been brain washed to believing that George Washington was the first pres. There was 8 presidents before Washington. Look up John Hanson. They really fooled you Obama fans.

  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2013, at 11:26 PM, Bond wrote:

    The fools are the numbnuts posting the dumbest uneducated remarks...yes you know who you are.....Congrats to the few intellects who posted thumb down to the uneducated ramblers!!

  • Report this Comment On December 01, 2013, at 12:05 AM, VegasSmitty wrote:

    This article pretty much proved that the MF really does hire fools to write for them.

  • Report this Comment On December 01, 2013, at 12:27 AM, typhon451 wrote:

    According to the Democrats people should be grateful their identity is being stolen so nameless unidentified undocumenteds can contribute to helping keep our SS trust fund fiscally sound. Plus it is so unfair for them to contribute but not get anything back until they get amnesty.

  • Report this Comment On December 01, 2013, at 12:54 AM, rav55 wrote:

    Everybody whines about how the Democrats are screwing Social Security yet it's the Republicans who want to end Social Security by calling it an entitlement and taking those trillions of dollars and dumping it into Wall Street thereby creating another bubble and crash so we can all loose everything.

    Obama promised a fix to Social Security yet the Republicans want it to fail so they can close it down and use the money. They'll sell everyone on how Social Security is best invested. Argentina did that back in the 90's and the market crashed. Everyone but the brokers lost.

  • Report this Comment On December 01, 2013, at 1:07 AM, lusty44 wrote:

    I don't understand why people are so darn dumb enough to post untruths about President Obama. But he was born in Hawaii. Why is that so darn hard to understand. Get over your foolishness.

    Stop being ignorant all your life. For the last time President Obama was born in Hawaii, which is part of the USA. His father the sperm donor was born in Africa. Please be for real. It HAS been proven.

  • Report this Comment On December 01, 2013, at 1:37 AM, Squirrel7y6g wrote:

    Obama supporters will go hysterical over this well sourced list of 462 examples of his lying, lawbreaking, corruption, cronyism, etc. http://danfromsquirrelhill.wordpress.com/2013/08/15/obama-25...

  • Report this Comment On December 01, 2013, at 5:57 AM, VikingBear wrote:

    Something touched on only briefly above was the time President Obama spent as an undercover agent in the Black Panthers. I would really like to have this followed up on.

    Undercover agents get classified SSANs--his happened to belong originally to a deceased person.

    Can someone confirm or deny these data points?

    Oh, and Social Security is nothing more than a tax with an associated benefit structure. What you personally paid in is long gone.

  • Report this Comment On December 01, 2013, at 6:58 AM, Jabe wrote:

    If you can face the honest truth do this web search:

    Go to the birth certificate that Obama has certified is his. Check out his birth date that the certificate verifies is his

    Then, do a web search of the hospital that is listed on the certificate as his birth place.

    That hospital did not exist until he was in his teens.

    If you have the courage to face the truth do a web search into what Sheriff Apaio & his posse have discovered.

  • Report this Comment On December 01, 2013, at 10:46 AM, SusanDaniels wrote:

    Obama social security number is a phony and I discovered it four years ago. I am a licensed OH private investigator and have been for twenty years.

    The numbers were not assigned randomly until starting in June 2012. Obama's number was issued strictly for a CT resident in 1977. Obama was sixteen and living in HI. His sister's is a HI number.

  • Report this Comment On December 01, 2013, at 11:12 AM, karifjones wrote:

    SLAVE

  • Report this Comment On December 01, 2013, at 11:39 AM, THATFIGURES5 wrote:

    SORRY COULDN'T WATCH THE VIDEO THE GUYS VOICE WAS JUST TOO MUCH!!! :-(

    AND CONSTANTLY REPEATING THE SAME WORDS OVER AND OVER!!!!

  • Report this Comment On December 01, 2013, at 11:40 AM, THATFIGURES5 wrote:

    ALSO WONDERING HOW SUSANDANIELS WAS ABLE TO OBTAIN OBAMA'S SS NUMBER???

    MAYBE THE FEDS SHOULD CHECK INTO THAT!!!

  • Report this Comment On December 01, 2013, at 8:46 PM, altha2008 wrote:

    Your debt number and your tax number. That is what your SS number means

  • Report this Comment On December 02, 2013, at 3:04 AM, jamescackman911 wrote:

    it means you are a piece of property to the federal reserve it was the first way they could track your business actions it means you are nothing more than a slave to an infinite debt system you have no choice if you want to be a federal citizens we are not American s we are US citizens

  • Report this Comment On December 02, 2013, at 1:25 PM, BxBruce007 wrote:

    The scariest thing of all is that so many loons, conspiracy theorists and complete idiots are commenting on a web site dedicated to making wise investing choices. So many stupid people, so little time...

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2013, at 3:35 PM, Mykiemon wrote:

    That was a pretty lousy article but then, who writes great articles all the time.

    Since this article was so bad, it seemed to be a welcomed opportunity for the crazies who I will say, do not demonstrate any creativity whatsoever. Obama this or Obama that or he didn't do this or he did do that.....I'd call this an obsession.

    We are almost out of the economic woods, a place we were put prior to Obama coming on the scene. He's OUR President and we should support OUR President until it no longer looks like a good idea instead of resisting from day one to eternity, no matter the facts and, spouting slanderous rumors as facts constantly. How does one explain this malodorous obsession?

    Well beyond me to understand or explain but it disturbingly show the lack of rationality of our fellow Americans. In my day, we hid our ignorance, now we flaunt it. Go figure. And to those who want everyone to put away the race card, since there is no logical justification for this level of hatred and misinformation about OUR President, it's natural to label it galloping Racism. In my day (born up north), we hid our sicknesses.

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Dan Caplinger
TMFGalagan

Dan Caplinger has been a contract writer for the Motley Fool since 2006. As the Fool's Director of Investment Planning, Dan oversees much of the personal-finance and investment-planning content published daily on Fool.com. With a background as an estate-planning attorney and independent financial consultant, Dan's articles are based on more than 20 years of experience from all angles of the financial world.

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