Effective June 25, 2011, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will change the way Social Security Numbers (SSNs) are issued by using “randomization,” a new randomized assignment methodology that will help protect the integrity of the SSN, extend the available pool of nine digit SSNs in every state, and extend the longevity of the SSN nationwide. While the length of the SSN will still be comprised of nine numbers, randomization will impact SSN Validation tools used for background checks. For Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Social Security Number Randomization, visit: http://www.ssa.gov/employer/randomizationfaqs.html.
In 1936, the SSA began assigning the nine-digit SSN comprised of the three-digit area number, followed by the two-digit group number, and ending with the four-digit serial number. Since 1972, the SSA has issued Social Security cards centrally and the area number reflects the state, as determined by the ZIP code in the mailing address of the application. SSN randomization will affect the SSN assignment process several ways:
- SSN randomization will eliminate the geographical significance of the first three digits of the SSN, currently referred to as the area number, by no longer allocating the area numbers for assignment to individuals in specific states.
- SSN randomization will eliminate the significance of the highest group number (the fourth and fifth digits of the SSN) for validation purposes for SSNs issued after the randomization implementation date.
- The High Group List will be frozen in time and can still be used for validation of SSNs issued prior to the randomization implementation date.
- Previously unassigned area numbers will be introduced for assignment excluding area numbers 000, 666 and 900-999.
- Group number 00 and serial number 0000 will not be assigned. SSNs containing group number 00 or serial number 0000 will be invalid.
The SSA will still provide opportunities for direct SSN verification using Internet based verification services that include:
- The SSA’s Social Security Number Verification Service that is available to employers.
- The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) E-Verify Service that is available to employers to determine employment eligibility of newly hired workers.
- The SSA’s Consent Based SSN Verification Service that is available to enrolled private companies and government agencies for a fee.
The SSN Validate tool will continue to provide the same information it has always provided where the input SSN exists on the SSA High Group List, will provide the state of issue for the input SSN, and will continue to detect an invalid SSN format, such as less than or more than 9 digits; and the tool will also detect an invalid SSN such as: area numbers 000, 666, and 900-999; group number 00; and serial number 0000. Effective June 25, 2011, SSN Validation tools used for employment screening background checks may have changes that include the following:
- For <9 or >9 digits, Area Number 000, Area Number 666, Area Number 900-999, Group Number 00, and Serial Number 0000: The US Social Security Number (SSN) to Validate is an invalid SSN.
- For 9 digits, Valid Area Number, Valid Group Number, Valid Serial Number, and the SSN does not exist on the SSA High Group List: The US Social Security Number (SSN) to Validate State of SSN issue cannot be determined. SSN may have been issued after the 06/24/2011 implementation of the Social Security Administration (SSA) SSN Randomization Program, or SSN may not have been issued by SSA.
- For 9 digits, Valid Area Number, Valid Group Number, Valid Serial Number, and the SSN exists on the SSA High Group List: The US Social Security Number (SSN) to Validate is a valid SSN issued in the (State of Issue).
Due to the Social Security Administration’s randomization of SSNs issued after June 24, 2011, SSN Validation tools used for employment screening background checks will not distinguish between a SSN issued after June 24, 2011 and a non-issued SSN where area number, group number, and serial number are not invalid.
Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – a background check provider accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) – offers the ESR Social Security Number (SSN) Trace that provides names and addresses associated with a job applicant’s social security number, may indicate any fraudulent use, and may verify other applicant information such as past addresses. Employers use SSN Traces to help verify job applicants are who they say they are and to ensure they are not the victim of a fraudulent applications. For more information about the ESR Social Security Number (SSN) Trace, visit http://www.esrcheck.com/services/SSN-Trace.php.
About Employment Screening Resources (ESR): Founded in 1997 in the San Francisco area with a mission to help employers and employees maintain safe workplaces, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) is accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) and provides industry leading technology, legal compliance, service, turnaround, and accuracy. ESR also wrote the book on background checks with ‘The Safe Hiring Manual’ by founder and President Lester Rosen. For more information about ESR, visit http://www.ESRcheck.com.