Your Social Security Number: When You Should Give it Out

With the extreme surge in identity theft these days, you should be extra cautious about protecting your Social Security number. Avoid giving it out unless you are convinced it is required or is to your benefit. When you do give it out, make sure you know with whom you are dealing and why they need it, especially when it’s over the phone or internet.

Here are some organizations that will probably require your Social Security number:

  • Some government agencies, including tax authorities, welfare offices and state Departments of Motor Vehicles
  • Your employers and financial institution for wage and tax reporting purposes
  • Schools
  • Credit bureaus and credit card companies
  • Certain businesses that need your Social Security number to do a credit check, like when you’re applying for a car loan

You are not legally required to provide your Social Security number to most other government agencies and private businesses, even private healthcare providers and insurers, though in many cases, you probably will still have to.

If someone asks for your Social Security number, ask the following questions:

  • Why do you need it?
  • How will it be used?
  • How do you protect it from being stolen?
  • What will happen if I don’t give it to you?

Unfortunately, a business may not provide you with the service or benefit you want if you refuse to reveal your Social Security number. Getting satisfactory answers to your questions may help you decide whether you choose to provide your Social Security number. However, if you do not see a valid reason to give it, try asking them to make an exception and offer an alternative, such as your driver’s license number.