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Your Social Security number is an essential piece of identification information, and one that all permanent residents need to start memorizing even at an early age. This is one of the most important documents that an individual citizen in the United States can have as they are a key identifier used by government agencies to verify the identity of an individual.
When opening an online bank account a person’s SSN will almost certainly be used online by any website that is trying to confirm your identity.
This number is an important and often necessary bit of ID to become an employee at most jobs, open important accounts, or otherwise prove you are who you say you are.
If you need to locate someone’s social security number, there are several different approaches that you can use to accomplish this.
The methods discussed in this blog post will allow you to find out someone’s social number in various situations, what is and isn’t allowed, and why it’s important to protect your own to avoid the pitfalls of identity theft.
Table of Contents
What Is a Social Security Number?
A Social Security number (SSN) is a nine-digit number that is given to natural-born citizens shortly after birth, or to immigrants who earn citizenship. This number is a primary identifier used by the United States government that is used to identify an individual for taxation and identification purposes.
This number is assigned by the Social Security Administration and it is unique for every single person. No two people will ever share the same number.
This is done to help guarantee proper verification of a person’s identity and is a way to tell apart people who have the same name, are born on the same day, etc.
An individual’s SSN is attached to their earnings, retirement contributions, and taxes owed or paid. This is often a required bit of information on everything from job applications to tax returns to any type of government document.
In addition to this many banks, credit card companies, and other companies may require social security number verification to provide services. In some cases, it’s even a legal requirement.
Many companies require social security numbers to conduct credit checks on their customers.
The numbers being unique to each person also helps ensure not only that the checkers get the right information…but that any copy of a check requested by the person doesn’t result in them getting someone else’s sensitive information.
Why Do You Need Someone’s Social Security Number?
Since a Social Security number is such an important piece of information, it is heavily protected. If someone obtained your number they would have access to an incredible amount of private information about you.
Not only that, but if used with identity theft this could be used with your date of birth and other easier to find information to change your password to various online sites, open fraudulent credit card accounts, or cause other harm due to identity theft.
Because of that getting a copy of your own number is difficult. Getting someone else’s might not be possible and there is only a very limited set of circumstances where this is considered legally possible/acceptable.
Reasons you may need to find out your own Social Security Number:
- You never received it from your parents or guardians
- You have no hard copy of a Social Security Card and can’t remember it
- You need a replacement card for identification purposes
- For filing taxes, opening a bank account, or getting a loan
These situations are uncommon, but not necessarily rare. After all, you don’t know where your birth documents are as a baby – if they were lost in a fire, or you grew up in a less than supportive childhood environment, you may never have had access to your own SSN.
Having a certified birth certificate and any other form of ID (or several) is the best way to start this process, and you can go to the government Social Security Administration website to learn more.
Reasons you may need to check out or confirm someone’s SSN:
- To match/confirm genealogical records
- To perform duties when acting with Power of Attorney for another individual
- If you are a bank confirming information to open financial accounts
- If you are a government entity legally checking records on an individual
- If you are an employer hiring someone within the United States
- Needed to access medical records
If you are trying to acquire the Social Security number of someone else, there are going to be many restrictions and potential obstructions in the way.
Generally speaking, unless acting on behalf of a larger entity like a hiring company or bank, or unless the person is familial, it’s going to be very difficult to do this.
Especially since most people are aware of how important it is to protect personal information like family members’ SSNs.
Is SSN Considered Public Information?
No, a person’s Social Security Number is not considered a public record. Because this number is so important it is private information that a person has a right to have protected.
If you still need to press forward, there are only a few ways to potentially discover someone’s number, and it will be done through one of the following methods:
- Get it directly from the individual
- Get authorized consent from the individual
- You are working on behalf of the individual’s estate or have a legal position that allows you to pursue this particular information
If you are not a family member or close friend, you must be an authorized third party with consent from that person to get that information, a process which almost always includes them providing a signed release, a copy of which they get for their records.
If you can show the person that giving you that number is in their best interests, that is the easiest route to getting this information.
This is something that some people do when they need assistance in applying for credit cards, loans, work with government programs, or applying for employment opportunities.
Keep in mind that trying to get another person’s number has a lot of different laws and regulations surrounding it. Make sure that you meet one or more of the following:
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it does go to show how narrow the framework is for requesting this information.
Social Security Verification Services
Many human resources departments for companies, along with banks and credit card companies, use verification services to confirm this information.
There are private background check services that do this. It’s worth noting that you can use a Social Security number verification service from private sources or even the free resources from the Social Security Administration’s website to go through that process.
Can You Find Someone’s SSN From Public Records?
Many sites offer ways to search for anyone in their database. You may even be able to get the results within minutes after signing up with these services depending on what information you have on hand.
USATrace.com is a good resource for this. Another way to perform this type of research is by using Google or any other major search engine on the Internet.
You can try contacting your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and requesting information on the driver’s license number associated with that person as well.
If you have access to any court records, that might reveal some information, but generally no identifiers like an SSN.
This information should never be available on a person’s publicly available records.
Social Security Number Search
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Hire a Private Investigator
Private investigators are one potential route to find someone’s social security number. Good trustworthy investigators understand the law, often have a security or law enforcement (or both) background, and will be well-versed in all the available databases and resources out there to find information.
Hiring a PI can be costly, but it might be worth it to have a professional on your side.
IMPORTANT: If you go this route always look for someone reputable, do your research, and make it abundantly clear you want everything above board – no illegal methods or practices to acquire this information!
They might be able to help look through the information you have and guide you to the right connection or resource to get the necessary information.
That said, there isn’t a lot of regulation around becoming a private investigator so make sure to do your research and only hire a reputable one who will follow all laws and regulations.
Get a Person’s Voluntary Consent
If you are looking for the social security number of someone else, one way to do so is by getting their voluntary consent. This would be an unusual situation, but if they’re willing to provide it then that’s the simplest way.
If the person doesn’t want to provide the information, there’s nothing you can do to force it.
Even if the reason is something beneficial like making them the beneficiary of a life insurance policy, the policyholder will simply need to change the benefits to go for someone whose information they do have (or can get).
Takeaway – There Are Limited Options for Finding Someone’s Social Security Number
There are very few reasons for an individual to legitimately need the SSN of someone else, and there are many safeguards in place to make sure these numbers don’t fall into the wrong hands.
This is the way it should be, but it does mean if you can’t get the person to give you their number, or if you aren’t a business or bank using SSA services to run confirmation, you just might not have many options.
Remember that Social Security numbers are private information, so unless you have a very compelling and important reason for finding an SSN, it may not be possible or may not be worth the effort.