Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, and 2013. If you are using an earlier version (Excel 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Excel, click here: Partially Blocking Social Security Numbers.

Partially Blocking Social Security Numbers

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated April 25, 2015)

If you have a worksheet that includes Social Security Numbers in it, you may be looking for a way to protect the numbers by only displaying the last four digits. So, instead of displaying 278-53-6128, you would only want to display ***-**-6128.

The way to accomplish this depends, in large part, on whether the Social Security Number is stored in the cell as a number or as text. If the SSN is entered with its dashes (as in 278-53-6128), then Excel stores it as text. If the SSN is entered without dashes (as in 278536128), then Excel stores it as a number.

If the SSN is stored as a number, you may be tempted to create a custom format that hides the first part of the number. Unfortunately, there is no way to do this with a custom format. You could create a custom format that would hide all except the first digits, as in this manner:

000,,"-**-****"

As you can surmise from this example, custom formats don't allow you to mask out anything except the last portion of any value. Another drawback to this approach, however, is that Excel "rounds" the SSN, such that 278536128 is displayed as 279-**-****.

The best solution to displaying only the last part of a Social Security Number is to use a second column for the actual display. Instead of trying to format the number (or text) itself, it is best to use a formula that refers to the number and creates the desired result. For instance, if the SSN is in cell B7, then you would place the following formula in a different cell:

="***-****-" & RIGHT(B7,4)

This formula will work with any SSN, regardless of whether it is stored as a number or as text. The other big benefit to this approach is that it allows you to completely hide the original numbers. Even if you were able to use a custom format to hide the first portion of the number (which you can't), someone could still see the SSN in the Formula bar if the cell containing the number is selected.

Using the formula approach, however, allows you to hide the source column, or use sheet protection to hide the contents of the column. This is a big benefit if your goal is to really protect the Social Security Number from prying eyes.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (10941) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Partially Blocking Social Security Numbers.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Checking for Either of Two Text Values

Using a formula to find information in a text value is easy. Using a formula to find either of two text values within a ...

Discover More

Finding the Dates for Minimums and Maximums

If you use Excel to maintain a collection of data, you may need to find information in one column based on information in an ...

Discover More

Inserting Multiple Graphics in a Document

Word allows you to easily place graphics in a document. Placing one or two graphics is easy, but placing many graphics in a ...

Discover More

Professional Development Guidance! Four world-class developers offer start-to-finish guidance for building powerful, robust, and secure applications with Excel. The authors show how to consistently make the right design decisions and make the most of Excel's powerful features. Check out Professional Excel Development today!

More ExcelTips (ribbon)

Formatting Currency

If you want to format currency values so that Excel uses periods between groups of thousands and commas as a decimal ...

Discover More

Removing All Formatting

Getting rid of formatting from a cell or group of cells can be done using several different techniques. This tip describes ...

Discover More

Hiding Individual Cells

Hiding information in one or more cells can be a challenge. This tip presents several different techniques that can help you ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is four less than 9?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)


This Site

Got a version of Excel that uses the ribbon interface (Excel 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the menu interface.

Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.