Friday, May 13, 2022

Why You Should Never Give Out Your Social Security Number

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Can I Refuse To Give My Social Security Number To A Business Or Doctor

Four times you shouldnt give out your Social Security number

Yes, you can refuse unless youre legally required to provide your Social Security number .

However, theres also no law preventing businesses from asking for it or refusing you service if you dont provide it. If a business requests your SSN, you can always speak with a manager or ask if theres an alternate ID you can provide .

Places Where You Should Never Give Your Social Security Number

How to protect Your Social Security Number

I once asked a doctor why he wanted it. His response: “I don’t really know. I guess it’s because we’ve always asked for it.”

Almost every day somebody asks for your Social Security Number and, like the Grand Marshal of a parade throwing rose petals or candy to the crowd, you probably give it up without giving it a second thought — because that’s what you’ve always done.

So, the next time someone asks you for your Social Security number, reflect on this: In December, the Army announced that hackers stole the Social Security numbers of 36,000 visitors to Fort Monmouth in New Jersey, including intelligence officers.

Cyber activists took control of the CIA’s website. The private information, including some Social Security numbers, of celebrities and political leaders including FBI Director Robert Mueller and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were exposed.

The sensitive data of First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder, recently were posted on a website for the world to see.

Hackers even listened in on a phone call in which the FBI and Scotland Yard were discussing the criminal investigation against those very same hackers!

And, these incidents are only the crumbs on top of the coffee cake when you consider that hackers and thieves have improperly accessed more than 600 million consumer files since 2004.

Monty Python had it right

Don’t just hand it over

When You’re Registering A Child For School

To enroll your child in public school, you’ll generally need to prove that you live where you say you do, and to that end, you’ll need to supply documents like utility bills and a driver’s license that list your address. Your Social Security number, though, should not be on the list of necessary identification items to supply.

The same holds true when you’re applying for college, or when a child of yours is doing the same. The only time your Social Security number will come into play is if you’re applying for financial aid, but if you aren’t, you shouldn’t have to share it.

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Your Social Security Number Has Not Been Suspended

The phone calls as part of this scam usually advise that your Social Security number has been suspended because of suspicious activity or because it was involved in a crime. But this is a lie. The scammer only wants you to verify your Social Security number in order to ‘reactivate’ it, possibly to prevent your bank from being seized or to cancel a warrant for your arrest. But the scammer just wants your personal information, and probably money in the form of gift cards. Never, under any circumstances, pay anyone with gift cards.

Social Security Services While Abroad


As an American abroad, you will work through the US consulate or consular Federal Benefits Unit serving your region. To locate the appropriate FBU, you can check the website of the Social Security Administration at this link:

Q1. I have my SSN.

You are all set to file taxes, get your passport renewed, etc.

Q2. I remember my SSN, but no longer have the card.

This is not a problem unless the you are requested to provide a photocopy of your original card. If called upon to produce one, you can apply for a replacement card, and the Federal Benefits Unit for your region can supply you with a letter saying that you have applied for it.

Q3. I used to have one, but I cannot find it and dont remember the number.

Check first via the Federal Benefits Unit serving your region. These can be found listed here:

The FBU may perhaps confirm if a SSN has been issued to you however they are not permitted to transmit this number to you, either over the phone or by letter. The procedure in this case is to apply for a replacement card by postal mail using the approprite form. You can leave the space asking for the SSN blank.

Q4. I dont know if I ever had a Social Security Number. How do I find out?

Check via the Federal Benefits Unit serving your area . With the data you provide them, they can inform you if a number has ever been issued to you.

Q5. How does one apply for a replacement SSN card?

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Shred Mail And Documents With Personal Details

Discarded mail and documents are a magnet for identity thieves. Dont just throw out papers that contain personal details such as your SSN. Get a paper shredder and use it on a regular basis. While youre at it, dont leave mail in an outside mailbox for long periods. Stealing mail is another way thieves can make off with your information.

If You Have Been Victim Of Fraud

You can ask for a new SIN only if you can prove that your SIN was used fraudulently.

However, getting a new SIN will not necessarily protect you from fraud or identity theft. If someone else uses your old SIN as identification and the business does not check the person’s identity with the credit bureau, credit lenders may still ask you to pay the impostor’s debts. Each time, you will have to prove that you were not involved in the fraud.

If we issue you a new SIN, you will need to contact all your financial institutions, creditors, pension providers and employers to ask them to update your files.

Note: Service Canada cannot correct a credit file. It is up to you to contact your financial institution, report any discrepancies and have them resolved.

If you have proof that someone else is using your SIN, an investigation is required.

An indication that your SIN is being used fraudulently is when you receive a Notice of Reassessment from the Canada Revenue Agency concerning undeclared earnings. This means that another person has used your SIN for employment purposes or to receive other taxable income.

You must visit your nearest Service Canada Centre with your original proof of identity documents and provide proof that another person has used your SIN.

Here’s what you will need to provide to Service Canada if you suspect someone is using your SIN:

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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.

Should You Ever Give Your Ssn Over The Phone

When NOT to Give Out Your Social Security Number

You should never provide your SSN to someone you dont know who calls you on the phone and requests it. This same warning applies to unsolicited emails and any forms you fill out on the internet. In general, dont give your SSN to anyone unless you are absolutely certain they have a reason and a right to have it.

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In 2020 Victims Were Swindled Out Of Nearly $45 Million In Social Security

This is the story of how my sister nearly fell for a Social Security scam. Her panicked call to me as she was on the line with a criminal trying to steal her money illustrates just how people fall for this type of fraud.

No doubt youve received a similar call, either from an individual or a recorded voice, claiming your Social Security number has been compromised because of criminal activity. You are told unless you respond immediately usually by sending money, buying gift cards or revealing bank account details youll be arrested or your Social Security number will be suspended.

Its a lie, but one that is so believable, last year victims were swindled out of nearly $45 million, with an average individual loss of $5,800, according to the Office of the Inspector General for the Social Security Administration. More than 700,000 complaints of Social Security-related telephone scams were filed in 2020. A suburban Chicago man pleaded guilty early this year to laundering cash from a scheme that defrauded elderly victims. The scam allegedly conned an elderly Massachusetts woman out of $900,000 that she was urged to transfer from her bank and retirement accounts.

Social Security numbers cant be suspended. No government agency will ask you to pay with gift cards. The feds will never threaten arrest or legal action unless you immediately send cash.

How Do Hackers Get Ssn

If your phone/email or the receiving partys phone or email gets hacked, your social is toast. Shred documents Another way attackers get your SSN is by fishing through your trash. There is a decent chance that your SSN or other identifying information may be listed somewhere on papers youre throwing out.

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Avoiding Social Security Fraud: Leave Your Social Security Card At Home

Once you receive your replacement Social Security card, lock it away in a safe place until you absolutely need it. Experts advise to avoid carrying your card around on a regular basis partly because of the risk of losing it again, and partly because you really dont need to present your Social Security card on a regular basis. In fact, one Social Security expert says that Social Security cards are irrelevant in the digital age, and the real priority should be targeted at fraud protection.

Its extremely rare that you need your actual Social Security card, says Steven J.J. Weisman, Esq., an Amherst, Massachusetts-based college professor whose expertise is in investigating white-collar crime. A Social Security number is the most important piece of information that a criminal can use to make you a victim of identity theft so you shouldn’t carry it with you in your wallet, anyway.

But if you do lose your card, Weisman recommends taking direct action to protecting the cardholder from financial fraud.

Because of the danger of identity theft if your Social Security card is lost, you should put a credit freeze on your credit reports at each of the three major credit reporting agencies in order to prevent someone from leveraging the Social Security number into accessing your credit or establishing accounts in your name, he says.

Other data security experts agree, citing the high risk of losing a card if you cart it around in your wallet or pocketbook.

Do Check Your Credit Report

We All Have A Social Security Numbers...But What Are They ...

It doesn’t matter how careful you are with your Social Security number, there’s always the risk of your information falling into the wrong hands. Hackers can break into a company or organization’s computer system and steal account holder information. For that matter, don’t ignore checking your own credit report at least once a year. Pulling your own credit history doesn’t hurt your credit score. You can order a free copy of all three reports annually from

This article first appeared at Wise Bread.

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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?
  • Do you have a privacy policy, and may I see it?
  • 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.

Applying For Or Buying Tickets From Public Schools

If big-name schools like Ohio State University, the University of California, Berkeley, and University of Maryland can all let personal information slip, then it seems this can happen at any public school — though private institutions like the University of Miami and Yale University have dealt with similar breaches. Levin suggests that elementary school and high school parents and even students applying to college either leave the Social Security Number space on applications blank or look for alternatives like other forms of identification.

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If An Organization Asks For A Sin And It Is Not Legally Required

If you believe your SIN isn’t required, ask why it is being requested, how it will be used and with whom it will be shared.

If your SIN is not required by law, explain that you prefer not to provide it. Offer different proof of identity.

If the organization refuses to provide the product or service unless you provide your SIN, ask to speak to the person in charge. Many organizations don’t 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 may formally complain to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada or 1-800-282-1376. There is no fee for making a complaint to the Privacy Commissioner.

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.

For more information on laws about your privacy and the Government of Canada, visit the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

Have Your Own Story About Privacy

If Asked For Social Security Number, Keep These 3 Things In Mind

Others can get your personal information in many ways including

While you can’t always prevent identity theft, you can reduce your risk.

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Tip : 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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Situations Where Youre Asked To Give Out Your Social Security Number

We get asked for our social security numbers so often, from online forms to credit applications, that it can be hard to know when itâs appropriate to give your number. Itâs important to know what counts as legitimate scenarios to give out your number and what does not.

However, it can be murky as to when you should give out your SSN. According to the office of Xavier Becerra, the Attorney General of the state of California Department of Justice, there is not a law in place that prevents businesses from asking your social security number, and you can even be denied services if you do not provide it. Technically, the answer to âwho can legally ask for social security number?â is everyone. That means itâs up to you to determine legitimate times to give out your SSN, though there are a few scenarios where itâs common and expected to give your social security number.

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There Are Only A Few Organizations Entitled To Collect Your Ssn

Barry Cohen, a former employee of the Social Security Administration, says there are only a few organizations that have the legitimate right to collect and use your Social Security number, mostly limited to the Social Security Administration and the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.

“While many organizations and companies request it and while it has become commonplace for many to collect and use it they are, in fact, unauthorized uses and therefore you should not be required to provide the number,” says Cohen. He says the SSN was never intended to be used as a national identification number. “True, law enforcement agencies will often use it. However, the Social Security Administration does not routinely provide the numbers to them.”

You may find yourself unable to get a credit card, home mortgage, or other loan without supplying your Social Security number, but in most other cases, there’s no legitimate reason for anyone to collect this information. If you’re uncomfortable with providing your SSN in any situation, know your rights and speak up.

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