When You Should (and Should Not) Give Out Your Social Security Number
Picture a scenario where you're at a Walmart, and salesperson peddling cable and high-speed internet in the store asks if you’d like to save some money. He's wearing the properly branded gear and presents an attractive offer. Then he asks you to input your social security number on a table in order to see if it qualifies for the special price on the internet package.
You may now be wondering if this guy was legit or if this was another social security number scam where he was using your social security number to steal your identity.
It’s become very common for companies and organizations to ask for your social security number – sometimes they need it and sometimes they don’t – and it’s always a good idea to know which is which so that you don’t give out your number unnecessarily and put yourself at greater risk of having your identity stolen.
When It’s Required to Provide Your Social Security Number and When It’s Not
There are several legitimate reasons for companies and organizations to ask for your social security number (SSN). These can include credit checks, taking out a mortgage, buying a car, and seeking employment.
There are also many places that ask you for your social security number and if they do you should politely decline. These are places like schools, doctors’ offices, and almost anyone else that doesn’t need to establish creditworthiness or employment eligibility.
The SSN website has a lot of good resources to help prevent social security fraud – including this page that gives lots of tips to guard your social security number.
It’s a great resource to use and because it’s a government site, you are getting the information straight from the source. Now, let’s get into how to decline to give your social security number out where you don’t have to.
How to Decline Giving Out Your Social Security Number
Giving out your social security number for non-credit related requests is purely optional, and learning how to gracefully say no can save you from potential identity theft. After all, the more places that have your credit card information, the more opportunity there is for thieves to get to it.
The good news is that politely declining is a skill set that’s easy to develop. Most of the time you just simply don't fill out space on your paperwork. Often, the person handling the paperwork won’t make you fill it out.
If they ask anyway, then a good strategy is to ask “What happens if I don’t give you my Social Security number?”. Asking this simple question can make a HUGE difference in whether or not you have to give out your SSN.
Another good strategy to try is to ask what alternative methods of identification can be used. Often a driver’s license number or state ID number may work.
In most instances that don't require a credit check, these tactics will prove enough so that you don’t have to provide your Social Security number.
It’s a good idea to protect your Social Security number and not give it out unless you need to, this helps to prevent identity theft and fraud.
To check on information about your Social Security number, always make sure you are using the official ssn website – it should have a .gov extension and not be a .com or anything else. Only official government agencies can use the .gov extension.
Keeping yourself safe in a digital world where everybody wants your social security number can be tough, but you can minimize the risk by being careful about who you give it out to.