Social Security Number (SSN)

December 23, 2004

[Last Updated: December 23, 2004 ]

"DON'T give your Social Security Number (SSN) to anyone, except your employer, government agencies, lenders and credit bureaus." -- Michael F. Nozzolio, New York State Senator

There's a company selling a product and service to aspiring models asking for their Social Security Number. The reason, they claim, is for "verification purposes." DO NOT GIVE THEM YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER! Companies do business all the time, selling products and services, and they do not ask for your Social Security Number. They don't need it, and they don't have a right to know it.

Most of the talk nowadays about the reason why you should not give out your Social Security Number has to do with Identity Theft. That is very significant, but there is more to it than that. When someone has your SSN, they can find out where you live, where you lived, your credit rating, and a lot more personal information they have no right to know. Court cases against you, bankruptcy, criminal records, etc.

Prospective employers have a right to know your past, and an SSN is an effective way to do background checks. If you want to take out a loan, a lender has a right to know if you have any credit issues in your past. It is a big enough risk to both an employer and a lender so that it is acceptable for them to ask for your SSN and look you up in various databases. (An employer needs it for tax purposes, anyway.) It is part of due diligence. If they do not know someone's past, it could cause significant damage to their reputation, or they will never see their money again, losing thousands of dollars from loaned money they never see again.

But a company that sells you a product or service for $300, for example, is not taking a big risk, and there is absolutely no justification for a demand, or even a request, for your Social Security Number. You can buy goods and services anywhere, including online, for $300--or even $3,000--and not get asked for your SSN. If a company asks for your SSN on the pretext that it will help them decide if they want to sell you a service or product, "for verification purposes," their asking should help you decide not to buy it.

Advice from U.S. Social Security Administration

You should be very careful about sharing your number and card to protect against misuse of your number. Giving your number is voluntary even when you are asked for the number directly. If requested, you should ask:

  • Why your number is needed;
  • How your number will be used;
  • What happens if you refuse; and
  • What law requires you to give your number.



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