Episode 830: XXX-XX-XXXX : Planet Money How did the social security number become the most important identifier in the United States? And is that even a good idea?
NPR logo Episode 830: XXX-XX-XXXX

Episode 830: XXX-XX-XXXX

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Social Security cards.
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On April 14th, 1935, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act, he thought he was giving Americans some safety in retirement. What he may not have realized was that he was also inadvertently inventing a national identification number.

When it started, people didn't mind carrying around their social security number in their wallet, and blurting it out on the air. Now, it's the key to a person's retirement, finances, and identity. And it's valuable enough to steal.

Today on the show: How did this happen? And why did we pick this particular system of numbers?

Music: "Blues Reflections," "Swamp City" and "We Gave Up Too Soon."

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