Protecting Your Social Security Number

April 06, 2019

There is no overstating how important your Social Security Number (SSN) is - and the same goes for safeguarding it. You have to be careful about how and when you use it. So, if you're looking for ideas on how to protect your Social Security Number, we cover some of the dos and don'ts below.

Most people are wary of having their SSN taken by an identity thief in a tech scam or stolen from physical documents. But have you ever thought about how you may be putting your own SSN in danger by willingly providing it? While many organizations ask for your SSN, and it's requested on applications, you aren't automatically obligated to provide it. Some businesses would like to have it because an SSN is an easy way to identify you and access extra information about you.

However, your SSN is legally required only for certain reasons. The key is knowing when and when not to disclose it. Here are some of the organizations that may ask for an SSN when it's not really needed:

  • Insurers
  • Property managers and landlords
  • Hospitals and medical offices
  • Sports leagues
  • Schools
  • Utility companies

On the other hand, the following entities typically require your SSN:

  • IRS for tax reporting
  • Employers for employment reporting
  • Banks for opening an account
  • Lenders for an extension of credit
  • Government agencies for a driver's license, programs it funds, and more

What if you're not completely sure if you need to list or share your SSN? If somebody requests your Social Security Number, a couple of questions you should ask are: 1) why is it needed? and 2) how will it be protected?

Remember that you can refuse to share your SSN; but, in turn, the business can also refuse to serve you. Experts suggest offering your driver's license number instead, if possible. You'll be glad you thought ahead and played it safe.

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