Scantrons now only require last 4 SSN digits

Meranda Watling

If your name is Joseph but some people call you Joe and others call you Joey, it’s time to pick a name to call yourself.

Security concerns prompted Information Services to ask students to begin filling out the “bubble sheet” or Scantron tests using only the last four digits of their Social Security numbers and to use the same name on each test.

New software developed over the past year and tested during fall semester and winter break allows the switch from using the entire Social Security number to only the last four digits.

“If a student bubbles in all nine numbers on their scanner sheet, it will only read the last four digits and then stop,” Production Systems Coordinator Shelley Steinbrecher said in an e-mail.

Without the whole number, however, there is an increased possibility that another student may share the same last four digits. Greg Seibert, director of security and compliance, said it is unlikely because “the last four digits, first name and last name create a unique combination.”

“We have other security checks in place to avoid this being an issue,” Steinbrecher said.

Shani Pacheco, editorial/communication coordinator for Information Services, said the department is trying to make everyone aware of the changes, especially the professors, whom it hopes will remind students on test day.

“We need to have everyone fill in their name consistently,” Pacheco said. “If for the first test you put in ‘Smith comma Joseph’ and on the next test you put ‘Smith comma Joe,’ it could possibly read that as a second person.”

Problems could arise in classes where professors rely on the computer to figure grade averages. Pacheco said the computer would put the two names — Joe and Joseph, for example — above each other, listing them by the same last four digits of the Social Security number. But the computer might not recognize these names as the same person.

The move toward using only four numbers was out of concern for security, Seibert said. Eventually, he said, he’d like to phase out the use of Social Security numbers for anything.

“Before, when we had students filling in their whole Social Security number, it was going through a lot of hands,” Seibert said. “There was just lots of ways people could see it. We were very fortunate we never had a problem with identity theft that we could trace back to it.”

Contact technology reporter Meranda Watling at [email protected].