Many of our reader’s are concerned about Social Security number protection, and understandably so. Knowing when you should and should not give out your Social Security number can be a challenge. It’s a somewhat charged and sensitive subject. In this post I’ll provide some perspective.
One good rule to live by is this: Just because someone asks for your SSN (over the phone, in person, on a hardcopy form, on an online form) doesn’t mean you have to give it out.
Many people have a knee jerk reaction, though, and freely give this unique identification number out—simply because it’s asked. Big mistake! That said, there will be many times when you will need to provide it, and so you know, I provide mine ALL THE TIME – with discretion.
Quite frankly, some people and organizations just have no business requesting your SSN. Don’t even give out the last four digits unless you know for a fact that the company already has your full number on file and the question is asked to verify who you are.
Unless the IRS is somehow involved, such as when you apply for a job, or when you are requesting a line of credit, don’t give out your Social Security number – protecting these digits is critical. Now we all know that some businesses won’t grant you what you want unless you fork over the number, and often, in those situations, I’ll provide my SSN for those services and not worry about it – after all, I already have a credit freeze and identity theft protection service in place.
Social Security Number Protection Tips
- Rule of thumb is simply avoid entering your SSN in any document or application. If your application is denied due to a lack of SSN, then ask if they really need it and if there’s an alternative.
- Request that your bank never require your SSN for identity verification. There are other options. This way, if a crook tries to use your number, this will set off alarm bells.
- Extend your identity theft protection to the SSNs of your children. Teach them not to give it out.
- At doctors’ offices for your children’s care, see if the office will take just the insurance account number.
- Never e-mail your number. If someone legitimate wants it, phone that person, and don’t leave it on voice mail.
- Never give your number to someone asking for it over the phone unless you know with 100 percent certainty it’s legitimate. So if you get a call and are told you’ve won a sweepstakes or a cruise, and they want your SSN, hang up.
- Every year you should receive a Social Security statement booklet in the mail. Note your income. If it’s inflated, it’s possible someone that else is using your Social Security number.
- Never carry your SSN card out in public; memorize the number. Hide the card or lock it in a safe.
- You’d never be naïve enough to ever use part of your SSN for a password, would you?
- If your number is in your PC, it should be in an encrypted document; otherwise if your computer gets hacked, a crook could get the number.
- Before tossing any paperwork with your SSN into the rubbish, make sure that you shred it.
When it’s all said and done, just use common sense. If you are filling out an application for credit, they will need your SSN. If you are signing up for a membership at a gym, and they are debiting your credit card, they don’t need it.
And because your SSN is effectively the “key to the kingdom” and the primary identifier for creating new lines of credit, it needs to be protected, or at least monitored. The single way to do this is with identity theft protection. Otherwise, sans protection, you’re keeping your fingers crossed hoping your identity won’t get stolen.