What Are SSN and SIN?

By Mitch Reid - Updated February 07, 2018
Canadian and American flags in the wind

Governments around the world use national identification numbers to keep track of the financial dues and privileges of citizens. The United States uses the Social Security Number, or SSN, whereas Canada uses a Social Insurance Number, or SIN for each citizen. In most cases, an individual’s number is associated with legal identification.

Social Security Number

The United States government originally developed the Social Security Number, or SSN, system to manage the Social Security benefits of its citizens. Over time, the government began to use these nine-digit numbers to track individuals' taxation information. Today, a SSN is required for many basic privileges, such as driving a car, enrolling in school and opening a bank account.

Social Insurance Number

The Canadian government uses the Social Insurance Number, or SIN, system. The SIN enables individuals to work in the country and take advantage of government benefits and programs. As with the SSN in America, many organizations and institutions in Canada use the SIN as a simple method of identification.

SSN and SIN Security

Identity theft can occur if someone illegitimately acquires your SSN or SIN. Some examples of SSN and SIN fraud or misuse include: buying or selling fake identification cards; misuse by people with links to terrorist groups; stealing a sibling or relative's identity; collecting a victim's security benefits; and opening unauthorized credit accounts. Abuse of SSN or SIN information harms victims' credit ratings, the ability of the victim to obtain credit in the future, can lead to legal problems, and can cost a victim substantial time, effort and money to mitigate the damage.

About the Author

Mitch Reid has been a writer since 2006. He holds a fine arts degree in creative writing, but has a persistent interest in social psychology. He loves train travel, writing fiction, and leaping out of planes. His written work has appeared on sites such as Synonym.com and GlobalPost, and he has served as an editor for ebook publisher Crescent Moon Press, as well as academic literary journals.

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