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FAQ: When Do I Need to Give My Social Security Number?

FAQ: When Do I Need to Give My Social Security Number? - The Beacon


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By: Jackie

FAQ: When Do I Need to Give My Social Security Number?

One frequent question your BBB receives when we make presentations to consumer groups has to do with when consumers are required to give their Social Security number.  When Social Security numbers were first issued back in November 1936, the purpose was to keep an accurate record of our employment earnings and to monitor our Social Security benefits. However, over the years, one’s Social Security number has become a general identifier for all kinds of record-keeping.

There are specific laws that require a person to give his/her Social Security number for certain purposes. Here is a list, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA), of some of the situations where consumers might be required to give their Social Security numbers:

*Internal Revenue Service for tax returns and federal loans;

*Employers for wage and tax reporting purposes;

*Employers enrolled in E-Verify;

*States for the school lunch program;

*Banks for monetary transactions;

*Veterans Administration as a hospital admission number;

*Department of Labor for workers’ compensation;

*Department of Education for Student Loans;

*States to administer any tax, general public assistance, motor vehicle or driver’s license law within its jurisdiction;

*States for child support enforcement;

*States for commercial drivers’ licenses;

*States for Food Stamps;

*States for Medicaid;

*States for Unemployment Compensation;

*States for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families; or

*U.S. Treasury for U.S. Savings Bonds

In addition to the situations listed above, consumers are asked for their SSn by doctors, utility companies, pawn shops, and other businesses. It is legal for them to ask for it, but you do not have to provide it to them. However, they may refuse to do business with you if you refuse to provide your number.

Here are some guidelines from the SSA and your BBB for giving your SSn in other than legally-required purposes

*Ask under what law the number is required.

*Ask if the business or organization will accept an alternate form of ID such as a driver’s license number.

*Ask if they will accept only the last 4 digits of your SSn.

*Ask who will have access to this data.

*Ask how your data will be protected. Do they password protect and encrypt the information they collect?

*Once your questions have been answered, it is up to you whether to provide your SSn or not.

Your BBB cautions against giving out your SSn to never enter your SSn online, in an e-mail, or give it over the phone unless it is for a credit report request. For more information you can trust, visit

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Jackie is the Operations and Education Foundation Assistant with the BBB. She assists consumers with business inquiries, and does presentations to senior groups and high school students. She is a regular contributor to the blog.