Your Social Security number is unique to you alone and is one of the most important things you need to protect to ensure your identity and credit remains safe. Unfortunately, there are many consumers that do not guard their Social Security against potential theft. It can be very confusing to understand when it is okay to give out your Social Security number and to whom. As more and more business transactions are conducted online and over the phone, consumers need to understand how secure their social security number really is.
When Its Okay and When Its Not
There are a ton of forms we must fill out in our lifetimes. Visiting the doctor or dentist means filing out forms that call for your Social Security number. If you go to college, chances are good every paper you fill out will ask for your Social Security number. If you plan to borrow money, lenders will want your Social Security number. If you get a drivers license, you will need your Social Security number. It is becoming increasingly normal for a variety of industries to require your Social Security number.
Deciding when it is okay to divulge and when it is not is difficult but what consumers need to understand is this: just because someone asks for the number, it doesnt mean you need to give it. Basically, the only times a request for your Social Security number is necessary is:
- Any time you apply for credit and a credit check is necessary
- Any time you apply for federal or local government benefits or aid
- Any time you complete form for the Department of Motor Vehicles
- Any time you complete a cash transactions of $10,000 or greater as reported to the IRS
Beyond those instances, providing your Social Security number is optional. Consumers have a right to decline giving that information. On the other side of the coin however, businesses also have a right to refuse to do business with anyone who doesnt provide requested information. Companies will often use the number as a security blanket in case you ever disappear. Having your Social Security number is one way to track you down.
Experts suggest being polite about the refusal. Start by leaving the area of the form blank as if you overlooked it. If questioned, ask them why they need the number. If they say yes, ask them to provide you with the law that makes it a requirement to obtain the information. Do so politely and not sarcastically. Decide how to proceed based on their answers but do not feel obligated to let down your stance. If you absolutely can not get by without providing some information, make up a number and use two zeros as the middle digits. No existing number contains middle zeros so you can avoid inadvertently stealing someone elses identity.
Protection Is Key
Protecting your credit and identity is a priority for good financial health. All too often, people unknowingly provide vital information to the wrong people simply because they were asked. It should never be considered wrong that you wish to ask questions that are in your best interest. A good rule of thumb is to never divulge your personal information over the phone or through an email when you can not be 100% certain of who is receiving the information. There are many scams involving both the phone and Internet where scammer just directly ask for private information and consumers give out information without a second thought. You have a right to protect yourself and your private information.