From the beginning, the process of assigning SSNs included quality checks. SSA employees had to account for every number and explain any missing serial numbers fully. Also, the SS-5s and the OA-702s were coded separately by different clerks and were later compared as a quality check (Fay and Wasserman 1938, 24).

  • -Still, as one might expect, an undertaking as enormous as enumerating 35 million workers in one concentrated effort was bound to encounter some problems. Many individuals received multiple SSNs.
  • -Some people were under the impression that the more SSNs they received, the better. Others thought they needed a new SSN for each new job.
  • -Workers sometimes lost their original number and applied for a new one. Also, a great many unemployed and WPA employees applied for SSNs both during the initial registration and again through WPA or private employment registration.
  • -Sample studies in 1937 or early 1938 indicated that duplicate account numbers had been issued to not more than 3 or 4 percent of the applicants (Corson 1938, 4).
  • In 1938, a wallet manufacturer in Lockport, New York, the E.H. Ferree Company, decided to promote its product by showing how a Social Security card would fit into the wallet.
  • -The company vice president thought it would be clever to use a sample card with his secretary's actual SSN with the help of an SSN Validator tool.
  • -The wallet was sold at Woolworth's and many other large department stores, and the SSN was widely distributed.
  • -Many purchasers adopted the SSN as their own—5,755 people were using it in the peak year 1943, and 12 were still using it as late as 1977.
  • -In all, SSA received 40,000 incorrect earnings reports under this SSN, which had to be reassigned laboriously to proper SSNs. SSA voided the much-used number and issued a new SSN to the secretary (SSA n.d. c).
  • -About a dozen similar cases of individuals adopting a made-up SSN shown on a facsimile card have occurred. In one case, the Social Security Board itself issued a pamphlet with the made-up number 219-09-9999 that was adopted by an individual (SSA n.d. c).
  • -Also, prior to 1961 SSA field offices issued new SSNs. Only a fraction of these SSN assignments were screened at the central office for a previously assigned SSN, and then only manually (Long 1993, 84).
  • -Thus, issuing duplicate SSNs was possible. Beginning in 1961, the central office in Baltimore issued all new SSNs.
  • -But it was not until 1970 that an electronic method of checking for previously issued SSNs (called "EVAN" for "electronic verification of alleged numbers") was devised (SSA 1990, 4). Today, automated systems with sophisticated matching routines screen for previously issued SSNs.
  • -SSA has since introduced more rigorous verification procedures. On April 15, 1974, SSA implemented evidence requirements (age, identity, and citizenship/alien status) for applicants for an original SSN who are foreign-born, or are U.S.-born and age 18 or older.
  • -Then, on May 15, 1978, SSA began requiring evidence of age, identity, and citizenship/alien status from all applicants for original SSNs, and evidence of identity for replacement Social Security cards.
  • -In addition, all foreign-born applicants for replacement cards were required to submit evidence of citizenship/alien status.
  • -Also, in 1979 SSA created an electronic file called MULTX from a set of punch cards identifying multiple SSNs that was maintained by SSA's Office of Earnings Operations.
  • -As of December 2007, SSA had identified and cross-referenced in the MULTX file over 4.7 million individuals with multiple SSNs, about 93 percent of whom have only two SSNs.
  • -Generally, those with multiple SSNs are the "very old" on the Numident; a study conducted in 2002 showed a weighted average age of 82.9 (SSA 2002).
  • -The requirement for proof of age and identity for SSN applicants beginning in 1974 combined with the implementation of an automated SSN screening system in 1984 have significantly reduced the multiple-SSN problems.
  • -Under a few rare circumstances, SSA may legitimately issue a new SSN to a person with a prior SSN.
  • -The conditions are highly restrictive. SSA will assign a new SSN to a victim of harassment, abuse, or life endangerment if the individual provides evidence to substantiate the allegations.
  • -In addition, SSA may assign a new SSN to an individual who is a victim of SSN misuse, which means that the number has been used with criminal or harmful intent and the individual has been subjected to economic or personal hardship.
  • -Third party evidence is necessary for SSA to substantiate an individual's allegation of SSN misuse.
  • -However, an individual should consider changing his or her SSN only as a last resort because getting a new SSN may adversely impact one's ability to interact with federal agencies, state agencies, and employers, as all of the individual's records will be under the former SSN.