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What is a SSN?

By J. Beam
Updated May 16, 2024
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SSN is the widely accepted acronym that stands for Social Security Number. It is a 9-digit, personal identification number issued to U.S. citizens and permanent residents by the United States Social Security Administration. The SSN is one of the most important numbers an individual can have. People must have this number to apply for a job, receive any government assistance, file taxes, and obtain a mortgage or credit. For all of these reasons, it is also one of the most private pieces of personal information an individual uses, and should be kept private.

Though SSNs weren't issued until 1936, they were originally created as part of the New Deal Social Security Program and were used only for tax purposes. This meant that most children weren't required to have one before the age of 14. However, in 1986, a new law was instated requiring children over 5 to have a SSN before they could be claimed as dependents by their parents. Today, children need one before their first birthday.

The Social Security Administration is an office of the United States Federal Government and the only source for obtaining a legally issued Social Security number. In recent years, the SSN has become interconnected with more than just taxes, because it used by banks, colleges, and other primary business entities as proof of identification. This is how the number has become the prime target for identity theft. With an individual's SSN in their possession, thieves can easily apply for credit and obtain other identity and financial means fraudulently.

For newly born citizens or new permanent residents to obtain a SSN, they must contact their local Social Security office. If a person believes that his or her number has been compromised, it is important that he or she contact the administration for information on the steps necessary to protect his or her credit and identity. They can offer assistance and tell the person what can be done to avoid potential personal and financial devastation.

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Discussion Comments

By Sunny27 — On Aug 06, 2010

Suntan12- If you suffer from a stolen SSN card those results in identity theft, not only should you contact the credit bureaus, but the Social Security Administration as well. They could be found at ssn.gov.

You should also consider obtaining another valid SSN number.

In addition, you should also contact the IRS.

By suntan12 — On Aug 06, 2010

SSN records help the government identify who you are. SSN cards are required on credit applications as well as employment applications.

SSN verification is often done when applying for employment at a company because the company has to verify your legal status in the country.

Also, when you apply for a loan or any type of credit, this number is also used to track your credit worthiness.

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