When the United States began issuing Social Security Numbers (SSNs) in 1936, it assigned certain number sequences to certain states. According to the Social Security Administration, this was mainly to keep their files organized, but it has had the unintended effect of associating people with certain locations. SSNs have never been assigned directly to note a person's birthplace; before 1972, the number reflected the location of the office issuing the number, and since 1972, numbers have been assigned by the address written on the application. However, because most people now receive their SSNs as children, the numbers they are assigned quite often reveal the U.S. states in which they were born. Thus, although the method is not foolproof, you can reasonably determine your birth state by the first three numbers in your SSN.

Look at the first three digits of your SSN. These three digits are called the "Area Number" and are the only part of your SSN that can help identify your birth location.

Go to USRecordsearch.com/ssn.htm. US Search is a paid background search site, but this Web page provides the current Area Numbers for each state at no cost. Other websites also contain this information.

Find the range of numbers on the list in which the first three numbers of your SSN fall. The state listed next to that number range is the state where your SSN originated. For example, if your SSN starts with the numbers "538," it falls within "531-539" on the chart, indicating that your SSN was assigned in the state of Washington.

Tip

  • Your SSN cannot determine any location more specific than the state in which the number was assigned. Everything else about the SSN follows a complex but logical order of sequence, so beyond the state of origin, SSNs are assigned according to that numeric order.

Tip

  • Because of the logical sequence in which SSNs are assigned, some people have figured out how to correctly guess people's SSNs. Because the SSN is one of the primary components of identity theft, it's always a good idea to keep your SSN private and to keep an eye on your credit bureau reports for unusual activity.