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things that just are

Monday, April 26, 2004

How 40,000 people used Mrs. Whitcher's SSN for 40 years

If someone has misused your SSN, take heart -- it could be worse. According to SSA historians, over the course of 40 years more than 40,000 people used secretary Hilda Schrader Whitcher's SSN as their own.

In 1937, Whitcher's boss, Douglas Patterson , vice president and treasurer of the wallet-manufacturing company E. H. Ferree, decided to include a demonstration Social Security card in the new line of wallets. To make the false card a better representation of a real Social Security card, he included a real SSN -- his secretary's. The display cards were smaller than actual cards and had the word "specimen" written on them, but many people took the number to be their own SSN anyway.

The SSA gave Whitcher a new number and announced that the wallet sample number was not to be used as anybody's SSN. But some people were still using the number as late as 1977!

Some facts on how SSN are determined


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