When You Can Say NO to Providing Your Social Security Number
Ashley here from AllClear ID. Originally, social security numbers (SSN) were created to track an individual’s wages and earnings and to monitor social security benefits. Today, your SSN is considered a key identifier in who you are to employers, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and other government agencies. Specific laws restrict when you must provide a SSN for identity purposes. The Social Security Administration website has a pretty ample list of the places where you are required to provide a SSN including:
- IRS for tax returns and federal loans
- Employers for wage and tax reporting
- Employers enrolled in E-Verify
- States for the school lunch program
- Banks for monetary transactions
- Veterans Administration as a hospital admission number
- Department of Labor for workers’ compensation
- Department of Education for Student Loans
- States to administer any tax, general public assistance, motor vehicle or drivers license law
- States for child support enforcement
- States for commercial drivers’ licenses
- States for Food Stamps
- States for Medicaid
- States for Unemployment Compensation
- States for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families
- U.S. Treasury for U.S. Savings Bonds
If you are concerned about another organization not on the list above requesting your SSN for identity purposes and feel it is not necessary, there are alternative information sources that you can provide to verify your identity. In many cases providing your SSN as a common practice isn’t necessarily the best idea if you are trying to safeguard your identity. Here are some alternative identification documents you can offer to the organization or company instead of your SSN if you feel uncomfortable providing that information:
- Driver’s license and DL number
- Current and previous address
- Student ID (if applicable)
In addition to providing other forms of ID besides your SSN you should ask these questions to the requesting company or organization to figure out if it is really necessary for them to have it:
- Why do you need my number?
- How will my number be used?
- What happens if I refuse to give you my number for safety reasons?
- What law requires me to give you my number?
We have previously written about the 5 don'ts to protect your SSN. These are great tools and practices to safeguard your SSN and identity. In addition to our article, we also have guidance on our identity theft resources page about the next steps if you feel your SSN has been used fraudulently. If you find yourself concerned about someone requesting a SSN and you aren’t getting a straight answer about why they need it, don’t give it out. Be sure to offer and show another form of identity and keep your SSN and your identity safe!