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Deciphering Social Security Numbers
By Randy Henrick

Federal regulators estimate that 4 percent of identity theft involves the stealing of Social Security numbers belonging to children. What dealerships need to realize is the perfect way to combat this is by simply examining those nine little digits.

A Social Security number is divided into three parts: the area, the group and the serial number. Two of those three parts can tell an F&I manager how long ago the number was issued, and in which state. Just make sure to ask customers where and when they think their number was issued. There are also several Websites available to dealers that can help determine whether a Social Security number is phony or not.

Below is a quick primer on how to decipher a Social Security number.


1. The first three digits (the area number) of a SSN are determined by the state where the number was issued. You can get the state-assigned list for each 3-digit origination code by visiting Ask customers what state they lived in when their Social Security number was issued. If a customer's answer doesn't match the 3-digit numbers for that state, beware.

2. Within each area, the group number (middle two digits) ranges from 01 to 99. However, this range is not assigned in consecutive order. For administrative reasons, two-digit numbers issued first consist of odd numbers from 01 to 09, followed by even numbers from 10 through 98 within each area number allocated to each state. After all numbers in odd groups and even groups of a particular area have been issued, the even groups 02 through 08 are used, followed by odd groups 11 through 99. For example, someone whose middle two digits are 07 should be much older than someone whose middle digits are 95. That's because someone who is younger would have a higher number, due to the fact that the smaller numbers were already issued. Each month the Social Security Administration updates the “High Group List” of two-digit numbers on its Website.

3. The last four digits are assigned consecutively from 0001 through 9999 within each area and group sequence. They do not provide any meaningful information about a person to verify his or her identity.

As a note, you can also check a SSN against the Social Security Administration's Death Master File by visiting, which is a full file of persons reported to the SSA as being deceased. This may help you catch a thief who is using a Social Security number that is no longer valid.