Real Estate Agent

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?


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?

Social Security Card, Identity Theft, Identification, ID,

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)


Posted by

Paula Burt, REALTOR®      Keller Williams Keystone Realty, York, PA   (717) 755-5599, Ext 3055   RealEstateLadyPJB@gmail.com

Comments (4)

Sally K. & David L. Hanson
EXP Realty 414-525-0563 - Brookfield, WI
WI Real Estate Agents - Luxury - Divorce

Good points....for the first time the other day, the co-broke selling one of our listings had the title company call the buyer...he would not put the number anywhere in writing.

May 05, 2011 12:33 AM
Paula Burt

Sally & David:     Good for him!  We all need to start doing these things as a routine way of living!  Unfortunately, it is the way our world is.  Identity Theft is one of the worst things that can happen to anyone, and it happens way more often than most of us know!  Personally, I will be advising all of my clients about this as well from here on out.

Thanks for stopping by and commenting this morning.  Have a wonderful day!

May 05, 2011 12:58 AM
Michele Myers
Prudential Homesale Services Group - Harrisburg, PA
Harrisburg/Hershey Realtor

I never encouage a seller or buyer to disclose his social security number.  Great post.  Thanks for sharing.

May 05, 2011 02:04 AM
Paula Burt

Michele:     That's great!  Actually, I have had some Buyers give it on the phone to a lender, when they were the ones calling the lender, but I never really gave it much thought in that respect. 

It was eye-opening to listen to the lady tell us all the ways criminals can obtain our information to use unscrupulously, and that made me really THINK about how this particular piece of Identification is used in our industry.  Thanks for contributing to the conversation!

May 05, 2011 05:35 AM