If you work in an industry where you're required to collect Social Security information, you may run into quite a few scammers. In some cases, contractors will give you a fake or invalid SSN if they want to work in the US but don't have the proper documentation. In other cases, people looking to scam you or otherwise avoid suspicion will provide an invalid number. These people aren't necessarily looking to commit identity fraud. They're just looking to use an invalid SSN to have no traceable identity at all. The good news is that there are easy ways to know you've been given one of these invalid numbers. Here are some signs.
The area, group, or serial numbers contain consecutive zeroes
Social Security numbers are grouped into three categories--area, group, and serial. The first three numbers constitute the area, the next two make up the group, and the last four constitute the serial numbers. You'll know you're dealing with an invalid SSN if you see nothing but zeroes. The Social Security Administration has never issued this sort of Social Security Number and will not do so in the future.
Area numbers containing "666"
There's an obvious religious element that's long influenced American policy. Even on things like Social Security numbers, there's a desire in the government to not appear to be indulging any sort of anti-Christian sentiment. You may know that "666" is known as the "mark of the beast" in the Christian Bible. The number has long been considered unlucky by some and evil by others. For this reason, the government has never issued a Social Security Number with those coordinating area numbers. You might, however, see group numbers "66." It's only when the three sixes are together that things get dicey.
Discontinued railroad numbers
Many decades ago, the government gave out Social Security Numbers according to a person's job. In particular, the Social Security Administration gave out area numbers between 700 and 728 for railroad workers. This practice was discontinued in 1963, so you'll need to keep the age of the person you're assessing into account. If a 30-year old tries to pass off a number that begins with 721, you're dealing with an invalid SSN. Any other number is fair game, but these would only belong to older people who worked in a specific capacity with the government during the 1950s and 1960s.
Being able to spot an invalid SSN can save you a lot of trouble. Though you won't necessarily be blamed for falling for a wrong number, you might incur a headache over it. When you go to run a background check, you'll have difficulty identifying the person. Likewise, you may not be able to secure the proper work permits to allow that applicant to work for you or with you. Many employers find that people who would use an invalid SSN would also lie about other things. Wouldn't it be great if you could memorize these quick ways to identify a person looking to deceive you?