Your SSN: to Give or Not to Give

Posted by Leland On October - 25 - 2013 0 Comment

When Should I Give Out My Social Security Number

Your Social Security number (SSN) is an important piece of personal identification that needs to be protected. When someone else has access to your SSN, they have the ability to commit fraud and alter your financial history.

Throughout your life, you will be asked to provide your SSN many times. Most of these cases are legitimate, such as when you are asked to provide patient information on a doctor or hospital form. Unfortunately there are also cases where people provide their number to an unscrupulous individual or phony corporation, and wind up having their identity stolen. You should know how to distinguish between legitimate requests for your SSN and those that should raise suspicion.

Legitimate Requests for Social Security Information 

The Social Security Administration lists at least 17 agencies and entities — federal and state — that have a legitimate need for your SSN. They include the Internal Revenue Service, employers, banks, departments of the federal government including the Veterans Administration, Departments of Labor, Education and Treasury, and benefit-issuing agencies (i.e. Food Stamps, Medicaid and Unemployment Compensation).

When the government, your employer, or a financial institution asks for your SSN, they are required to provide you with a notice about how the information is being used. This is in accordance with the Privacy Act of 1974.

Places Where Giving Your SSN Should Raise Suspicion 

There are plenty of seemingly legitimate places that may ask for your SSN. Although such requests may seem benign, if the office or body requesting information does not appear on the Social Security Administration’s list of entities with a legitimate need for your number, you should decline to provide your identifier. These include any phone calls or email communications you receive from official looking offices requesting your SSN. Generally, a governmental agency will not call or send you mail for your SSN.

Additionally your child’s school does not have a need for your SSN as a means of verification; your utility bill or lease agreement can provide all the information they need. Applications for a shopper’s benefit card at a grocery store, restaurant, or department store should not request your SSN information unless these cards are an extension of credit and contain the Privacy Act notice governments, banks and employers are required to provide. Finally, it goes without saying that you should never provide your SSN to strangers or to a requester not known to you.

Ways to Safeguard Your Information 

You should periodically check your credit report to determine if your SSN has been misused. You are entitled, by law, to one free credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Transunion and Experian) per year. Any changes in your credit score or errors on your report should be addressed immediately in order to have them disputed and corrected.

Your Fair Isaac and Company Score, the basis for loans and other financial transactions, can be purchased for $16 and may be useful for you to monitor as well. You may also look at the services of various identity protection companies that provide monitoring and alert services. Make sure you choose to work with a legitimate private company that can verify their services. Look around online to ensure that anyone you work with has a reputable background.

This article was written by banker and credit counselor Anne Lim.  She also recommends Identity Theft Protection service provider Protect Your Bubble.

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