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It's Incredibly Easy to Figure Out Someone Else's Social Security Number

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The way people talk about social security numbers would have you believe that keeping it a secret is vital. But, as CGP Grey explains in a new video, if someone is serious about stealing an identity via an SSN—assuming the card was issued before 2011—all they have to do is piece together a few facts.

The first three digits of a person's SSN refer to the state in which the card was applied for. Easy enough. The second chunk of digits follow a regular pattern, and the last four digits count up in order. If you know where and when someone was born, you can probably just get the corresponding numbers off a chart and guess the rest. Alternatively, if you get the last four digits of someone's SSN from a leak—these are regularly given to hospitals, universities, and other institutions for identification—the other digits aren't too hard to deduce.

That also means that if you subtract one from the last four digits of your own SSN, you likely just identified someone born in the same hospital around the same time as you. All the while keeping in mind that your SSN was issued on a piece of flimsy cardboard without photo ID that you likely lost 15 years ago. Feeling secure?


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