7 Times You Don't Have to Give Your Social Security Number


It seems like every time you fill out an application or formal document, somebody wants to know your Social Security number. Many times we just give it up — the organization is reputable, so what's the harm? But the question you should be asking yourself is, "Why?"

Why are you being asked to give up one of the most important legal identifiers and the master key to identity theft? Is your Social Security number actually required, or can you continue the process without divulging that information? Here are the times you can keep your SSN to yourself. (See also: When Is It Okay to Share Your Social Security Number?)

1. During a job interview

If you're hired for a job — or at least in the last few stages of the hiring process — your employer will request your Social Security number so they can do a background check. This is an appropriate time to provide it to them. Any requests beforehand, like on your application, are not mandatory and your chances of getting that job shouldn't be hurt by withholding your SSN.

2. Loyalty cards for retailers

If the application for a retailer's loyalty card requests your SSN, skip this section. There's no reason they need it since the card has no credit value — you're just racking up store points. Sometimes store policy mandates the application can't be processed without this information, and in that case, you're better off declining the program. Considering how many retailers get hacked these days, this is a wise move to make if you want to at least try to protect your personal information from identity theft.

3. School (unless you're applying for financial aid)

You'll need some kind of identifying information to register for school. Birth certificate, driver's license, passport, and bills showing your name and address are all acceptable documents to prove you are who you say you are. But it's illegal for public schools, in particular, to require a Social Security number to attend. Same goes for college — unless you're applying for financial aid or scholarships. In that case, they need your Social Security number in order to qualify you based on you or your family's income.

4. Doctor's offices

Generally, you're not required to provide your Social Security number to medical service providers unless it's a part of a transaction that must be reported to the IRS or required to do a credit check with one of the major credit reporting agencies. Doctors want your Social Security number for one reason and one reason only: money. They ask for it so they can send your information to a collections agency if your account becomes delinquent.

You're not required to provide your Social Security number to medical providers. Some will accept another form of numerical identification, but others may refuse to do business with you unless you provide it.

5. Government benefits

Government agencies may ask for your Social Security number, but the Privacy Act of 1974 requires these agencies to inform people whether or not a Social Security number is required by law at the particular agency. If it is not required, the agency cannot refuse to provide you benefits if you decide not to divulge your SSN.

6. Booking travel

When booking travel, only your credit card is required to pay for the trip or to put on file for incidentals, like at a hotel. Anybody asking for your Social Security number when booking travel is likely not reputable, and you should look elsewhere for arrangements. You don't need to provide your SSN to anyone during your travels, either. Your passport or driver's license will have all the information any authority needs to identify you.

7. Over the phone to someone who's called you

Never give your SSN to anyone over the phone who has called you. It may be a scam. If it's a company with which you do business, ask for the caller's name and let them know that you'll call the company directly — from the number listed online or in documents you may have, not from a phone number they provide you. You can then call them back and inquire about their request. (See also: What to Do When You Suspect a Scam)

There are only a few organizations entitled to collect your SSN

Barry Cohen, a former employee of the Social Security Administration, says there are only a few organizations that have the legitimate right to collect and use your Social Security number, mostly limited to the Social Security Administration and the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.

"While many organizations and companies request it — and while it has become commonplace for many to collect and use it — they are, in fact, unauthorized uses and therefore you should not be required to provide the number," says Cohen. He says the SSN was never intended to be used as a national identification number. "True, law enforcement agencies will often use it. However, the Social Security Administration does not routinely provide the numbers to them."

You may find yourself unable to get a credit card, home mortgage, or other loan without supplying your Social Security number, but in most other cases, there's no legitimate reason for anyone to collect this information. If you're uncomfortable with providing your SSN in any situation, know your rights and speak up. (See also: 9 Signs Your Identity Was Stolen)

Like this article? Pin it!

Disclaimer: The links and mentions on this site may be affiliate links. But they do not affect the actual opinions and recommendations of the authors.

Wise Bread is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.


/** Fix admin settings safe to ignore showing on unauthenticated user **/