Learn How Scammers Get Your Social Security Number

Knowing their secrets can help you trip them up

I came across an excellent article that explains how easy it is for scammers to decode your social security number.  I’ve always wondered how they did this.

Carnegie Mellon University researchers found that only two pieces of information are needed to guess SSNs. A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences implies that knowledge of your hometown and your birth date allows scammers to discover most, if not all, of the nine digits of your social security number.

For $50, your SSN can be bought from dozens of websites used by private investigators, businesses conducting credit checks, and savvy scammers who know your name, birth date, and current address. And if the scammer doesn’t have your birth place and date information, it’s easy to find.   “There are many websites and database where one can access the birth dates of thousands of people easily and cheaply,” said Alessandor Acquisti, the study’s lead researcher.

Public databases and voter registration lists include the information scammers want.  Over the years, the first three digits of the SSN designate an area number.   The fourth and fifth are a group number and the last four digits, which are more difficult to guess, are issued sequentially depending on how long the social security application took to process.

Today’s highest risk group for decoding are those born since 1988 because that is the year the Social Security Administration began to order SSNs for newborns and older children who did not already have a SSN.  The SSA now has a more arbitrarily process of assigning SSNs.

For those who use social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter or have online accounts, here are four easy ways to help prevent potential problems:

  • Do not use your birth date or any part of your SSN as a password.
  • Do not post any personal information such as your birth date, hometown and location of your high school.
  • When posting obituaries of loved ones, exclude hometowns and other personal information, as the deceased are frequent targets.
  • Stay away from online security questions that ask for your hometown.

Source:  Sid Kirchheimer   AARPBULLETINtoday

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