In the last issue we looked at one of the tracer’s primary tools, the Social Security number. This tool is used daily by tracing professionals to locate people and assets and the knowledge of its intricacies is a must for the tracer. In this issue we will take a look at the second and third group of numbers, the group number and the serial number, to better cipher their meanings and how this will aid us in our endeavors.
The group number, the fourth and fifth digits of the SSN, was initially determined by the procedure of issuing numbers in groups of 10,000 to post offices for assignment on behalf of the Social Security Board’s Bureau of Old-Age Benefits. The group numbers range from 01 to 99 (00 is not used), but for administrative reasons, they are not assigned consecutively. Within each area number allocated to a state, the sequence of group number assignments begins with the odd-numbered group numbers from 01 to 09, followed by even group numbers 10 through 98, then even numbers 02 through 08, and finally odd numbers 11 through 99.
The serial number, the last four digits of the SSN is pretty simple to understand as it represents a straight numerical series of numbers from 0001–9999 within each group. Serial number 0000 is not assigned.
The use of the SSN has expanded for other purposes far beyond what it was originally intended. The SSN, originally not intended to be used for identification purposes, is probably used today more than any other item as a primary means of personal identification. It is required on all credit, employment, financial documents and the list could go on and on. All people possess one common denominator…their SSN.
The Social Security Administration recognized that changes were required to protect the integrity of the card and has taken several steps to prevent counterfeiting of the SS card. This counterfeit- resistant version is now used for both original and replacement cards. Several other steps, which the SSA will not openly disclose have also been taken to improve the security of the card.
The next question is one I have been asked many times and one I have asked government officials associated with the SSA many times: “What information does the SSA have in my file?”
One of the most obvious pieces of data the SSA possesses is where I am employed; as my employer has to report my earnings and remit SS contributions monthly. Don’t we wish we had direct access to that information? In a round about way we do. This is from the SSA website:
We will attempt to forward a letter to a missing person under circumstances involving a matter of great importance, such as a death or serious illness in the missing person’s immediate family, or a sizeable amount of money that is due the missing person. Also, the circumstances must concern a matter about which the missing person is unaware and would undoubtedly want to be informed. (Generally, when a son, daughter, brother, or sister wishes to establish contact, we write to the missing person, rather than forward a letter from the relative.) There is no charge for forwarding letters that have a humanitarian purpose. However, we must charge a $35 (effective August 2012) fee to cover our costs when the letter is to inform the missing person of money or property due him or her. This fee is not refundable. The fee should be paid by a check that is made payable to the Social Security Administration.
We must read each letter we forward to ensure that it contains nothing that could prove embarrassing to the missing person if read by a third party. We do not believe that it would be proper to open a sealed letter; therefore, a letter that is sent to us for forwarding should be in a plain, unstamped, unsealed envelope showing only the missing person’s name. Nothing of value should be enclosed.
To try to locate an address in our records, we need the missing person’s Social Security number or identifying information to help us find the number. The identifying information needed is the person’s date and place of birth, the father’s name, and the mother’s full birth name.
Usually, we forward a letter in care of the employer who most recently reported earnings for the missing person. We normally would have the current home address only if the person is receiving benefits. Therefore, we cannot assure that a letter will be delivered or that a reply will be received. Also, we cannot send a second letter.
Requests should be sent to:
Social Security Administration
P.O. Box 33022
Baltimore, MD 21290-3022
What other information does the SSA collect on individuals as part of their data gathering process?
• Employee name
• Employee address
• Name of current employer
• Employer address
• Age of employee
• Date of birth
• Place of birth
• U.S. Employment Service (USES) registration card number, if applicable
• Date and place of previously completed SS-5, if applicable
• Completion date for current SS-5
• Signature (SSA 1990)
Join us in the next issue for another installment on a full understanding of the tracer’s tool, the SSN.
Ron Brown is a member of the National Association of Fraud Investigators and the author of “MANHUNT: The Book.” Contact him at