A Social Security number, or SSN, is one of the most important pieces of identifying information a person owns – one of the most often requested forms of identification when engaging in a variety of financial and legal transactions, such as opening a bank account, applying for a credit card, taking out a mortgage and so on. In the event that you have a Social Security number you need to find the owner of, there are specific governmental and private-sector SSN lookup tools you can use to help find who it belongs to.
If you're attempting to locate someone using a Social Security number, your best option may be to consult directly with the Social Security Administration. Whether or not you will have access to identifying information using an SSN will depend upon a variety of factors.
Social Security Number Basics
A Social Security number is a 9-digit numerical sequence which is issued to all U.S. citizens, as well as both permanent and temporary residents. First and foremost, your SSN acts as a gateway to a variety of benefits provided by the federal Social Security Administration. Without an SSN, an individual is unable to receive any of the financial benefits available to adults who do have an SSN and who have contributed funds to the Social Security program throughout their working years.
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For many years following the introduction of the Social Security number in 1936, it was virtually impossible for anyone to gain information about the owner of a Social Security number. However, with the introduction of the Freedom of Information Act in 1966, specific opportunities have become available for such tasks.
Today, an individual's SSN is used for myriad different functions. For example, a landlord may request an SSN lookup on a prospective tenant in order to evaluate both their credit score as well as their leasing history. A job applicant may be required to provide his SSN to future employers so his work history can be verified. In each of these cases, an SSN is used to find additional information about an individual, but not the name, because it's already been provided by the holder of the number. Alternative methods must be used in order to discover further details.
Looking Deeper into the FOIA
The Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, is highly useful in helping individuals use a Social Security number search as a bridge to locating more information about an individual, potentially even a name. Generally speaking, the individual seeking the information must file an FOIA request though the Social Security Administration. In the event that the person being located is already deceased, the Social Security Administration will likely be able to provide all relevant information. However, if the owner of the number is still living, the SSA may not be able to provide the identifying information requested. Consent may be required if the individual who owns the SSN you are using is still alive.
Other SSN Search Options
There are private-sector businesses that specialize in providing identity retrieval services using Social Security numbers. However, using these services can involve risk, because the SSN could be used for identity theft purposes. With that in mind, it's critical that you properly research the business in question to ensure they're wholly legitimate. Failure to do so could put another individual's financial information at risk.
When in doubt, your best solution may be to work directly with the Social Security Administration to determine what options are available to you. Considering that the Social Security Administration oversees virtually all elements of SSN assignments, they should be considered a primary and highly credible resource during your inquiries.