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Posted on September 18, 2014 by in Identity & Privacy, Personal

Last week, I shared some of the history of Social Security numbers with you. This week, I’d like to share a few more fun facts – namely about the complicated safety measures that have been applied since the program’s implementation in the 1930s. As you might imagine, registering millions of workers before computers were invented caused a lot of problems. For example, many people received multiple SSNs. Early on, some believed that it was better to have more than one number, while others thought you needed a new number every time you changed jobs. If a worker lost his original number he often just applied for and received a new one. This led to a variety of complications – what a relief to know that technology has been able to root out duplication in the system. As of 2005, with certain exceptions, individuals may receive no more than ten cards in a lifetime—each with the same original number, of course.  So what if you need a new number all together? The SSA will assign a new number only if:

  • You are a victim of harassment, abuse, or life endangerment
  • Your number has been used with criminal or harmful intent resulting economic or personal hardship
  • You can provide third-party evidence of SSN misuse

A new social security number would make it incredibly difficult to interact with state and federal agencies, employers, financial institutions and more. As such, the SSA recommends number replacement as a last resort. Safety First & Always From the very beginning, the Social Security Board assured Americans that the information they supplied would remain confidential.  In 1937, the Board issued its very first regulation, formalizing a “pledge of confidentiality.” Since then, the SSA has periodically introduced new materials and printing technologies designed to make the cards more secure – even some that are kept secret to further secure your information. The last big round of safety improvements was made in 2007, it included:

  • Images that can be seen when the card is viewed at an angle
  • Ink that changes colors when the card is viewed from different angles
  • A new production method that blends different color inks on the background of the card
  • Adding an issuance date on the front of the card

I remember when you could have your SSN printed right on your driver’s license.  Can you imagine? Thankfully that’s no longer legal. The SSA has even stopped printing complete SSNs on some correspondence with beneficiaries. Your Social Security number has become the one piece of information identity thieves would love to get their hands on. Be incredibly careful how you share yours. Interested in learning more about what you can do to protect yourself from identity theft? Read our latest infographic, “The Nuts and Bolts of Identity Theft.”