How safe are are you if you give out the last 4 digits of your SSN?
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Posted about 6 years ago
interesting and a bit scary,
Social Security Number
“How hard would it be for someone to guess the first five digits of my Social Security Number if they only had the last four?”
The obvious answer is, about 9,999 times easier than if they did not know the last four.
In fact, it is even easier than that. Your Social Security number is not a random set of digits. The last four numbers are created sequentially. They are not related to you. The rest of your Social Security number, however, is determined by where you requested it; usually, this is where you were born.
The first three digits of your Social Security number are an “area number” http://www.ssa.gov/employer/stateweb.htm. If someone can determine what area the person applied for the SSN in, they can determine the first three digits; it is currently based on zip code. There are currently no more than 772 area codes.
You can check the state ranges against your SSN at the http://www.ssa.gov/employer/stateweb.htm page on the Social Security Administration web site.
The middle two digits are the “group number.” This is probably more difficult to determine, but they are distributed in a pattern. In any case, there are only 99 of them, usually less. For any specific area code, the Social Security Administration http://www.socialsecurity.gov/employer/ssnvs/highgroup.txt.
There are also some other Social Security numbers that have been invalidated. For example, if the last four digits are 1120, identity thieves know at least one area code/group number combination that it is not.
When you give out the last four digits of your Social Security number, you are giving out what is probably the least-easily determined part of it. Once a criminal has the last four, if they truly want your identity (as opposed to just anybody’s identity), they ought to be able to bring down the total possibilities to no more than several hundred.
Giving out the last four digits of your Social Security number makes your entire number a lot more vulnerable. Armed with a computer and an on-line authorization site that does not care if an SSN is checked every day, they probably will not have any problem finding the rest. Your only hope is that they will not want to.
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| Posted over 2 years ago
Do you think the new paypal policy asking for the 4 four digits is still safe? Everyone is worried about giving the last 4 digits, but is it really risky for them to steal you identity? Am very concerned an look forward for your reply.