When Applying For A Job
If there is a space on the job application for your Social Security number you are under no obligation to provide it. Since the organization you are applying to is not yet your employer they have no legitimate reason for having this information.
They can ask and many will because it makes it easier for them to do a background check on you but you are under no obligation to provide it; even if there is one of those nifty little red stars next to the box that indicates you have to.
If you are refused a job because you did not provide a Social Security number on the application you have grounds to sue. So when is the right time to provide a potential employer with your SSN? When they have informed you they intend to hire you. Not before.
When To Provide Your Ssn
Not everyone who requests your SSN actually needs it. Generally speaking, if an entity reports information about you to the Internal Revenue Service , you probably have to supply your SSN. This includes your employer, banks/lenders, the U.S. Treasury for savings bonds, and state unemployment insurance and workers compensation offices.
Although other institutions and businesses have the right to ask for your number, they often dont need it, and you arent legally required to provide it.
As of Jan. 1, 2020, Medicare no longer uses Social Security numbers for identification. Instead, Medicare recipients receive a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier a unique series of numbers and letters that they should also try to protect from identity thieves.
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No matter how real or official an email or phone call appears, remember that your bank or credit card company will never call or send an email requesting your personal data. Ignore these correspondences and report fraudulent activity to the Federal Trade Commission. Let your bank or credit card company know about the fraud, and you can forward phishing emails to;.
Your Social Insurance Number Is Confidential
If your SIN falls into the wrong hands, it could be used to obtain personal information and invade your privacy. When the SIN is not linked to you as its rightful owner, another person could receive your government benefits, tax refunds or bank credits. Your personal information could also be revealed to unauthorized people, which could lead to identity theft and other types of fraud.
If someone uses your SIN to work illegally or to obtain credit, you may suffer hardship. You could be requested to pay additional taxes for income you did not receive or you could have difficulty obtaining credit because someone may have ruined your credit rating.
There are a number of things you can do to protect your SIN:
- provide your SIN only when you know that it is legally required
- store any document containing your SIN and personal information in a safe placedo not keep it with you
- contact Service Canada if you change your name, if your temporary citizenship status changes to a permanent resident status or if information on your SIN record is incorrect or incomplete
- take immediate measures to protect your SIN when you suspect someone else is using your SIN fraudulently
Times You Dont Need To Give Your Social Security Number
If you feel like youre constantly asked to provide your Social Security number, you may be right! Social Security numbers were originally created to track income to determine your Social Security benefits in retirement. But now, a Social Security number has become a near-universal form of identification, and is often sought whenever you give out your personal information.
With this increase in use has come a massive increase in the amount of identity theft reported in the United States. In 2016, 15.4 million cases of identity theft were reported, according to the Insurance Information Institute. One way to lessen your risk is to limit where you give out your information. Here are 5 places where you dont need to give out your Social Security number.
1. Before youve been hired for a job
Employers may ask for a Social Security number before youve been hired, but its not mandatory to provide it, according to the Society of Human Resource Management. When you are hired, you will need to provide your Social Security number so your employer can do a background check. But if youre asked for your SSN on your job application, you may be able to leave it blank, or explain that you dont feel comfortable providing that information.
2. At the doctors office
If you have Medicare or other federally sponsored health care, you will need to provide your SSN, according to the IRS. Otherwise, leave this box blank the next time youre visiting the doctor.
3. To attend schools or colleges
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They Can Use Your Ssn To Claim Your Social Security Check
Although you are regularly asked to use your SSN for identification, its primary purpose is linked to your Social Security benefits. The government keeps track of your earnings and your Social Security tax payments with your SSN, and you need it in order to claim Social Security retirement or disability benefits.
For example, if you are eligible for Social Security retirement benefits but have opted to wait until you reach full retirement age, a hacker with your SSN could apply for those benefits in your name. Because Social Security benefits are usually deposited directly into a bank account, you might not even discover this until you try to apply for benefits years down the road.
Pro tip: It’s a good idea to check on your Social Security account once or twice a year to make sure everything looks like it should. If you believe that a scammer is using your SSN to collect your Social Security benefits, call the Social Security Fraud Hotline at 800-269-0271.
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How To Protect Your Sin
There are a number of things you can do to protect your SIN:
- if you have a SIN card, do not carry it in your wallet or pursestore it in a safe place
- never use your SIN as a piece of identification
- provide your SIN only when you know that it is legally required
- provide your SIN over the phone only if you make the call and you know it is legally required
- never reply to emails that ask for personal information like your SIN
- shred paper records with your SIN once you no longer need themdo not recycle them
- contact Service Canada if you change your name, if your citizenship status changes, or if information on your SIN record is incorrect or incomplete
- take action immediately to protect your SIN if you suspect someone is using it fraudulently. See the section If you suspect someone is using your SIN or have been victim of fraud below
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Sharing Your Last Four
Using the last four digits of your Social Security number is better than using the entire number and having it printed on identification cards or on statements, but it’s still inherently unsafe. Many businesses ask for the number of legitimate reasons. You usually can use a different number as an account number or personal identification number, though. All that you have to do is ask. Given that there are other four digit numbers that you should be able to remember, using your Social Security number’s last four digits as rarely as possible is the best choice.
Tip 1: Memorize Your Social Security Number
Knowing your Social Security number by heart can be handy. Its there when you need it. Plus, you probably wont be tempted to carry your Social Security card with you or to jot down the number on a slip of paper.
This might seem like a small thing. But if youre not carrying your card with you, or youre not writing it down on slips of paper, youre far less likely to drop that paper or card on the ground or leave it behind at a local bank or government office. This means its less likely, too, that thieves might get their hands on your number.
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How Service Canada Protects Your Sin
Service Canada stores personal information requested to apply for a SIN in the Social Insurance Register. This information includes your name, date of birth, place of birth and your parents’ names. Dates of death are also recorded in the Register.
Service Canada protects your SIN in the following ways:
- we store your personal information carefully on our premises and in computer systems that are only accessible to authorized employees who have a “need to know”
- we provide guidance about how to protect your SIN and your personal information
Do Offer An Alternative Way To Identify Yourself
Some companies rely on Social Security numbers to identify account holders. If you call your utility company or your cable company’s customer service, the rep on the other end may ask for your number to pull up your account faster. This is a legitimate and innocent reason. But before you give out your number, ask the customer service rep if there’s another way to find your account. You might be able to skip giving out your Social Security number if you have your account number handy, or you may only need to provide the last four digits of your SSN.
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Apply For A New Ssn As A Last Resort
If you believe youve done everything you can and someone is still using your SSN, you may need to request a new number from the SSA. If you decide to apply for a new number, you will need to prove your identity, age, and U.S. citizenship or immigration status. You will also need to provide evidence that someone is using your old number. The SSA booklet Your Social Security Number and Card explains the application process.
Bear in mind that a new SSN may not solve all your problems. Think about all the government agencies, banks, credit reporting companies, and others that already have and use your old number.
Once you receive a new SSN, do not use your old number again. Make sure your new number is reported to all agencies that will need it and that those agencies know you no longer use your old number.
If You Are Asked For Your Sin When It Is Not Legally Required
If your SIN is not required by law, ask why it is being requested, how it will be used and with whom it will be shared. Explain that your SIN is not required by law and that you do not want to provide it. Offer to use a different proof of identity.
If the company or organization refuses to provide the product or service unless you provide your SIN, ask to speak to the person in charge. Many companies and organizations do not know about the appropriate uses of the SIN. Once they understand, they may willingly change their practices.
If you are not satisfied with the organization’s response, you are entitled to file a complaint with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. For more information on this or on laws about your privacy and the Government of Canada, call or call 1-800-282-1376 or visit the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada website.
You can also contact the organization’s industry association, ombudsman or complaint office. For example, the Canadian Marketing Association and the Canadian Banking Ombudsman handle customer complaints about their member companies.
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Tip 10: Be Careful Sharing Through Electronic Devices
There are risks in sharing your Social Security number by email, text, voicemail, and fax. For example, your SSN could get intercepted and read after you send your information. There are sometimes ways to help keep your information safe for instance, by using a VPN on an unprotected Wi-Fi network. But the safest way to share may be face to face with someone you know and trust.
Your Social Security number is a big responsibility and a vital component of your identity. You may not be able to control whether its exposed in a data breach. But theres still plenty you can do to help keep it safe.
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What The Numbers Mean
The nine-digit Social Security number is divided into three parts. The first three numbers generally indicate the state of residence at the time a person applies for his or her first card. Originally, the lowest numbers were assigned to the New England states, and the numbers grew progressively higher in the South and West. However, in recent years, this geographical relationship has been disrupted somewhat by the need to allocate numbers out of sequence to certain growing and populous states. The middle two digits of a Social Security number have no special significance, but merely serve to break the numbers into blocks of convenient size. The last four characters represent a straight numerical progression of assigned numbers.
SSA has issued about 365 million Social Security numbers, and about 10 million new numbers are assigned each year. But even at this rate, there will be no need to reissue the same numbers, revise the present system, or devise a new numbering system for several generations. For this reason, SSA plans to continue using the nine-digit number.
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What Is Identity Theft
Identity theft is when someone uses your personal or financial information without your permission.
They might steal your name and address, credit card, or bank account numbers, Social Security number, or medical insurance account numbers. And they could use them to
- buy things with your credit cards
- get new credit cards in your name
- open a phone, electricity, or gas account in your name
- steal your tax refund
- use your health insurance to get medical care
- pretend to be you if they are arrested
When A Random Caller Asks For It Over The Phone
Banks, companies, and government agencies generally won’t call you up out of the blue asking for your Social Security number. If you get an unsolicited call and you’re asked to provide that information, hang up the phone and do not, under any circumstances, comply. In fact, you should really report the number that called you to the Social Security Administration so that it can investigate and perhaps nip that scam in the bud.
You can’t afford to let your Social Security number fall into the wrong hands, so be sure to know when you should and shouldn’t give that information out. Furthermore, it’s a wise idea to memorize that number and store your Social Security card in a secure place, like a locked safe at home. Carrying that card around at all times only increases your chances of losing it or having it stolen, and since it’s not something you should be using on a daily basis, there’s no need to expose yourself to that risk.
Ask Why They Want It And How It Will Be Handled
If the business insists, ask questions. You have a right to know why its necessary to provide your SSN and how it will be handled. Ask questions such as:
- Why is having my SSN necessary?
- With whom will you share my number if I provide it?
- How will my number be stored?
- Will you cover my liability or losses if my number is stolen or compromised?
Unfortunately, if you are asked to provide your SSN to a business or an institution that doesnt need it, and you say no, it can refuse to provide services to you or put conditions on the servicesuch as requiring a deposit or additional fees.
Here’s Where To Get More Information On Social Security Numbers
Identity Theft: If you think an identity thief is using your SSN to work or to collect benefits, call the Social Security Fraud Hotline at 1-800-269-0271. If you think someone may be using your SSN to work, check your Social Security Personal Earnings and Benefit Statement. You can get a copy by calling 1-800-772-1213, or online at www.ssa.gov/online/ssa-7004.pdf. Also see the Social Security Administration’s booklet “Identity Theft and Your Social Security Number,” at www.ssa.gov/pubs/10064.html.
History of SSNs: For a chronology of the laws relating to SSNs, see www.ssa.gov/history/ssn/ssnchron.html.
What the Numbers Mean: For an explanation of the meaning of the numbers in SSNs and answers to other questions about SSNs, see www.ssa.gov/ssnumber/.
More on Protecting your SSN: “Fact Sheet 10: My Social Security Number: How Secure Is It?” from the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, at www.privacyrights.org.
Recommended Practices: For recommendations on how organizations can protect privacy in their handling of SSNs, see Recommended Practices for Protecting the Confidentiality of Social Security Numbers on the Business page at www.privacy.ca.gov.
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Do Ask About The Reason For Requesting Your Ssn
There are many reasons why a company might ask for your Social Security number. In some cases, the reasons are legitimate. For example, if you’re getting a home security system, the security company may ask for your Social Security number. This is likely because the security agreement is a two or three-year contract, and the company needs to run a credit check to see if you meet the credit requirements. But this doesn’t mean you should hand over your number without a fight. Make sure you understand why a company needs your personal information. If you don’t agree or feel comfortable with their explanation, don’t give out your number.
This rule also applies to family and friends who ask for your Social Security number. It doesn’t matter if it’s your parents, your brother, or your favorite cousin; there are few reasons why anyone would need your number. One example of a legitimate reason is if a relative names you as the beneficiary on his or her life insurance policy. The insurance company will need your Social Security number.