While those in retirement living communities generally have their 9-digit Social Security number handy for retirement benefits and Medicare registration, a team of researchers says that they should be wary about using the numbers as a form of identification in other situations.
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University say that the predictability of how SSNs are distributed can make it easier for criminals to narrow down, based on their ability to guess someone's number based on their date of birth and where they registered.
By running computer analysis, the scientists say that residents from smaller states had their Social Security numbers calculated in less than 1,000 tries.
"If you can successfully identify all nine digits of an SSN in fewer than 10, 100 or even 1,000 attempts, that Social Security number is no more secure than a three-digit PIN," the study noted.
The upside for seniors is that the easiest demographics for the researchers were Americans born after 1988 in low-population states, but they caution that the increasing use of UC numbers as a requirement by some businesses could cause future issues.