Why are the Last 4 Digits of an SSN Important?

Updated on November 3, 2023
At a Glance: A Social Security Number (SSN) is a nine-digit number issued by the government to eligible U.S. residents and citizens. It is important for tracking earnings, taxation, and benefits. An SSN is obtained by applying through Form SS-5. It is used for employment verification, opening accounts, applying for loans, and other official purposes. The SSN consists of an Area Number, Group Number, and Serial Number. Protecting the last four digits of the SSN is crucial to prevent identity theft.

Social Security Numbers are issued by the government and they are used for various purposes. A lot of times, different companies will use the last four digits of your SSN. However, these four digits are crucial and you need to protect them. But why are the last 4 digits of an SSNso important?

What Is a Social Security Number (SSN)?

Social Security Numbers are nine-digit numbers issued by the government and they are given to every eligible resident of the U.S. or citizen of the U.S. This number is very important because it allows the government to keep an eye on you and your earnings, as well as how many years you worked. Apart from that, the number serves for taxation and other such things.

In order to get a Social Security Number, one has to apply using form SS-5. This is known as the Application for a Social Security Number Card. Then, later in life, when you start your retirement, the Social Security Number will come in handy. It will also help if you get any Social Security disability income.

The government will use the Social Security contribution information in order to see if you are eligible and how much you deserve in benefit payments. The SSN generally stays the same during the person’s whole life. It only changes when someone needs a replacement in case another person steals their identity.

Also, when you get a job, you will be asked for your SSN by your employer. With this, the income you receive will be reported to the IRS, while the details will also be sent to the Social Security Administration for Social Security wages reports.

Other situations when you will be asked for a Social Security number are when you apply for a federal loan and when you open an account with any financial institution in the U.S. If you apply for a passport, driver’s license, public assistance, or when you enroll in Medicare, you will need the SSN as well.

Parts of an SSN

A Social Security Number is made of three parts. It contains what is known as an Area Number, Group Number, and Serial Number. We will discuss these below.

Area Number

The Area Number is pretty self-explanatory. It is given based on the geographical region you’re from.

Before 1972, you could obtain the cards in Social Security offices from the whole country. Back then, the Area Number was indicating the State where you received your card. So, it didn’t necessarily mean that this is where you lived, but rather that your card was issued there. People were able to get their cards wherever they wanted.

Later, in 1972, the SSA became responsible for giving cards from Baltimore and offering people SSNs. The new area number was chosen based on your ZIP code instead. Therefore, it wasn’t necessary for the mailing address to be identical to the place of residence, as the Area Number didn’t have to show the Applicant’s state of residence.

At first, Area Numbers were offered in the northeast, and later it spread westward as well. Because of that, the lowest numbers are given to those from the east coast, whereas the highest ones are offered to those from the west coast.

Group Number

The group number represents the two digits in the middle of the SSN. These digits can go from 01 to 99 in each area. However, it’s important to keep in mind that no consecutive order is used when assigning them. The group numbers that are issued first will have odd numbers between 01 to 09, as well as the even numbers between 10 and 98. Then, when every number in the 98 group of a certain area has been offered, the even numbers between 02 and 08 are used. Then, they will use the odd numbers between 11 and 99.

On the Social Security Administration website, you can find a Monthly Issuance Table that shows the most recent SSN area ranges that have been offered so far.

Serial Number

The serial number contains the last four numbers from your Social Security Number. In every group, the digits will go consecutively from as low as 0001 to as high as 9999.

Why the Last Four Digits of Your SSN Are So Important

The Social Security Number is not something you should give away. These numbers started being used back in 1936. Ever since they served as a way to verify someone’s identity. However, at the time, there wasn’t any technology as advanced as we have today. So, there were no computers or Internet. For this reason, people did not worry about identity theft.

The numbers were given based on the geographic region, which meant that the first numbers would tell you where someone was from. Meanwhile, the middle two digits are random. But nowadays, a lot of companies ask for the last four digits of the SSN, as they probably think that this is less likely for someone to steal identities.

When someone wants to steal the identity of a person, they will do whatever it takes to do it. So, only having the last four digits is not going to stop them. They can even use those digits to take your identity away.

Because of this, in certain states, there are some limitations regarding how companies can use your SSN. In places like Rhode Island, for instance, you will not be asked for your last four digits.

Why You Need to Protect the Last Four Digits of Your SSN

If you want to protect the last four digits of the Social Security Number, you should make sure that you do not check your credit using these numbers. Moreover, you shouldn’t use these digits in passwords or as your PIN.

You can get a credit report from any of the big three credit bureaus for free, and see if there is an account that was opened in your name without your knowledge. Most likely, if there is such an account, it has been opened by someone who wasn’t authorized to do so and stole your identity. Make sure you open an account with social security to be able to see whether you have accurate wage and social security information.

Another way to protect your last four digits is to not reply when you receive phone calls or emails that ask for any personal information. They might be dangerous and seek to steal your identity for their gain.

At the same time, you should be careful to shield the last digits of the SSN when you get an email or phone call that requests your number. No government agency or Social Security Administration will ever ask for these details by calling you.

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Final Thoughts

The last 4 digits of an SSN are important because if they’re in the wrong hands, they might lead to identity theft and you might get in trouble due to someone else’s actions. It’s important to protect these digits and make sure they do not end up in the wrong hands. Never give them to any person who calls you or emails you requesting too many details regarding your SSN.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.