mug brownIn order for a professional tracer to operate at a maximum level they must have a thorough understanding of the closest thing the United States has to an individual identifier. The information has been verified by its correspondence to the SSA’s Program Operations Manual System (POMS) Part 01, Chapter 001, subchapter 01, which can be found at Federal Depository Libraries. (SSA Pub. No. 68-0100201)

A social security number has the pattern, AAA-GGSSSS, where A is the area number, G is the Group number, and S is the serial number. According to the SSA, social security numbers are assigned somewhat randomly, but the following situations are never used: numbers containing all 0’s in any group and numbers starting with 666 or 9 are not valid. Therefore the following sample numbers are in correct format but are invalid social security numbers:

000-12-2345      123-00-4567      123-45-0000
666-12-3456      900-12-3456      950-12-3456

If you happen to be on the receiving end of social security numbers as a professional tracer, now you know how to spot the fake ones. As a bit of trivia, there are a few other social security numbers a tracer should be aware of which are flagged as invalid by this program. The social security numbers 987-65-4320 to 987-65-4329 are reserved for use in advertisements. The SSA used 219-09-9999 in a promotional pamphlet in 1940. In 1938, a wallet manufacturer inserted a sample Social Security card in each of its wallets as part of a marketing effort. The sample was a copy of Hilda Schrader Whitcher’s card, with the social security number 078-05-1120. Hilda was secretary to the vice president of marketing of the firm. Over 40,000 people have used this number according to the SSA.

The tracer should be aware 800-999 are not valid social security numbers. Some sources have claimed numbers above 900 were used when some state programs were converted to federal control but current SSA documents claim no numbers above 799 have ever been used.

Serial Numbers

Serial numbers are assigned in chronological order within each area and group number as the applications are processed. Serial number 0000 is never used. Before 1965, when number assignment was transferred from field offices to the central office, serial numbers may have been assigned in a strange order. (Some sources claim 2000 and 7000 series numbers were assigned out of order. This no longer seems to be the case.) Currently, the serial numbers are assigned in strictly increasing order with each area and group combination.

Group Numbers

The group number is not related to geography but rather to the order in which social security numbers are issued for a particular area. Before 1965, only half the group numbers were used: odd numbers were used below 10 and even numbers were used above 9. In 1965 the system was changed so assignments continued with the low even numbers and the high odd numbers. So, group numbers for each area number are assigned in the following order:

Odd numbers, 01 to 09      Odd numbers, 11 to 99
Even numbers, 02 to 08     Even numbers, 10 to 98

Group codes of 00 are not assigned. In each region, all possible area numbers are assigned with each group number before using the next group number. This means the group numbers can be used to find a chronological ordering of social security numbers within a region. When new group numbers are assigned to a state, the old numbers are usually used up first.

SSA publishes a list every month of the highest group assigned for each SSN Area. For example, if the highest group assigned for area 999 is 72, then we know the number 999-04- 1234 is an invalid number because even Groups under 9 have not yet been assigned.

I hope this in-depth exploration of the number one identifier a tracer utilizes in the United States will aid you in your future endeavors to track down the most elusive and dangerous animal on the face of the earth…man.

Until next time, good luck and good hunting!