When IS it okay to give out my Social Security Number? When you do, is it safe? Do they keep it private? How can I know that they do keep it private?
#1 IN A SERIES TO HELP YOU PROTECT YOUR IDENTITY:
Do you give your Social Security Number when you apply for a loan or a mortgage, apply to rent an apartment or home, go to the doctor's office, dentist's office, pharmacy, when you apply for a credit card, apply for a job, want to cash a check, or open a bank account?
When exactly IS it okay?
Well, here's the short answer: NEVER!
Here's the long answer: NEVER, EVER, EVER give out your Social Security Number to ANYONE, EVER! Under NO circumstances should you ever give it to anyone over the phone, unless you initiated the phone call and know to whom you are speaking and what their purpose is (such as a lender who is going to pull your credit score & record to determine if you qualify for a mortgage or loan)!!
Having said that, there may be legitimate reasons why someone would need your Social Security Number, one of which would be to obtain a Mortgage or apply to rent an apartment or house, or to obtain employment. But before giving it, make sure you stay in control. There are 3 questions you need to ask anyone who asks you for it, whether verbally or on a form of any kind.
1) Why do you need it? The answer may be "We require it as ID to have as part of your file." THIS IS NOT OKAY!! If they say"To check your Credit Score to see if you are Credit-Worthy to obtain this loan" or "to process your paychecks if you are hired" then these are legitimate reasons. If that's the case, then ask...
2) What will happen to me if I don't give it to you? An acceptable answer would be "Then you won't get the loan/mortgage, or job" or "You won't be able to rent/lease this house/apartment." If it is absolutely required for a good reason, then ask...
3) How will you keep it safe? If they say "By putting it in your file" (whether they keep it locked up or not), or "in our computer program file" - then these ARE NOT acceptable answers. Tell them you will write it down and stand there, over their shoulder, while they check your credit on the computer or on the phone. When they are finished, you take the piece of paper with you to shred, or make them white it out in front of you. Explain to them that you take protecting your identity information seriously, and will not allow it to be "out there" for anyone else to access, in any way, shape, or form. Make sure that they or you white it out on any print-outs they make, too. (Employers will need to keep it on file, as this serves the primary purpose of the card/number in the first place. Just ask them to limit its use to the payroll department and to safeguard it!)
NEVER CARRY YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER IN YOUR WALLET OR ON YOUR PERSON!! Identity thieves use them to set up a new identity in your name, which will ruin your credit and cause your life to be a living hell while you try to undo the damage done!
To sum it up, When is it okay to give out my Social Security Number? NEVER!! Except... when absolutely necessary, but you need to stay in control of its use and storage always!
Copyright 2011 - Paula Burt
(Written from my notes taken during a presentation by a representative of the PA Attorney General's Office on 5/2/2011)