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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:

  1. IRS for tax returns and federal loans
  1. Employers for wage and tax reporting
  2. Employers enrolled in E-Verify
  3. States for the school lunch program
  4. Banks for monetary transactions
  5. Veterans Administration as a hospital admission number
  6. Department of Labor for workers’ compensation
  7. Department of Education for Student Loans
  8. States to administer any tax, general public assistance, motor vehicle or drivers license law
  9. States for child support enforcement
  10. States for commercial drivers’ licenses
  11. States for Food Stamps
  12. States for Medicaid
  13. States for Unemployment Compensation
  14. States for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families
  15. 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
  • Passport
  • 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!


    1. Hi Lana,
      According to the Social Security Administration website, there are a few instances when your employer will need your SSN:
      “While we cannot give you a comprehensive list of all situations where an SSN might be required or requested, an SSN is required or requested by the following organizations:
      * Internal Revenue Service for tax returns and federal loans;
      * Employers for wage and tax reporting purposes;
      * Employers enrolled in E-Verify;

      Review their list located here, and you can always ask WHY someone is requesting it, and offer alternate forms of ID.

      Thanks, Kirsten from AllClear ID

  1. I am doing my best to get a driver’s license without using ssn in Texas. What forms of id can I use as this issue is not dealt with from what I read? can you let me know what can be used or where I go to find this info, please, as I have been searching for the answer to this very question for many months and have found no certain ways to do this. thank you, JHoffmann

  2. It’s actually a cool and helpful piece of info. I’m happy that you shared this helpful information with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

  3. There is no need for you to provide you SSN to any business. I know people who don’t have a SSN because it was an option at one point for the birth mother to refuse for her newborn to receive a SSN on the birth certificate. So when companies say they refuse to do business with you or can’t “go any further without your SSN number ” Is NOT TRUE and you should then wonder what they really want you SSN for. If you don’t want to provide it you DONT need to.

  4. An ex-employer used my social security number for personal reasons. She did not use it for monetary gain but did expose it to others, and available for many non employees and other employees to see. It was not used with anything involving the company. Is that illegal?

  5. I am concerned about companies requiring SSN for verification when I call about specific information. I do not trust giving my SSN or any portion of it over the phone or online because of increased automation and hackers no matter how safe the party on the other end states they are safe. I believe companies should have alternative methods of verification over the phone or online. Is there another way to verify personal identity without using SSN?

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