Your Social Security number (SSN) is one thing you should keep private. It’s disturbing to see the amount of paperwork that asks for your SSN these days. Sure, you need to share it for highly confidential transactions like opening a new credit or bank account.
But sometimes people are asking for it when it’s not needed. Just the other day at the bank, the teller asked me to enter it on the keypad. I responded, “I don’t feel comfortable entering it on the keypad. Besides here’s my bank card – can’t you use it to find my account?” She replied, “Yes.”
She seemed to have a habit of asking customers to enter their social security numbers on the keypad. It may be more convenient for her. But it’s not the best option for customers, because you never know who could be watching you punch in those numbers.
So Many Places Want Your Social Security Number
I’ve seen requests for my SSN plastered on church offering envelopes, elementary school applications, doctor’s office forms and even on TV show release forms. Some people even ask for it to book an appointment.
When I see it on some forms, I have no problem writing the word “Private.” And in conversation, I may have to take it a step further and say my SSN is not required and I will not be providing it. In return, I may receive deep sighs or confusing looks and that’s OK. I gladly offer other identifying information (e.g., birthdate) instead.
Businesses may ask for your SSN, but it’s your choice. You must determine if your Social Security number is really needed. The Social Security Administration offers this guidance to help you:
You should be very careful about sharing your number and card to protect against misuse of your number. Giving your number is voluntary even when you’re asked for the number directly. If requested, you should ask:
- Why your number is needed;
- How your number will be used;
- What happens if you refuse; and
- What law requires you to give your number.
The answers to these questions can help you decide if you want to give your Social Security number. The decision is yours.
Just because a church offering envelope has a place to write your “Social Security Number” doesn’t mean you have to fill it out. It’s not like you’re applying for a loan or something. With 1 in 14 people being a victim of Identity Theft, I’m a bit disturbed to even see it asked for in this loose manner. And I encourage any church to respond to this blog post to help me understand why someone’s SSN is needed to make an offering.
Many doctor’s offices use to require your SSN for personal identification, so some of their forms still ask. You have to be careful about sharing this type of information especially when Identity Theft and data breaches are far too common.
That’s why many medical records are pulled using other identifying information like your name, birthdate and possibly the last four of your Social Security number (if needed). While many doctors have moved away from the practice of requiring your SSN period.
Unfortunately, it’s true – “old habits die hard.” In fact, when I made my first doctor’s appointment at a new office, the woman on the phone asked for my Social Security number. Of course, I politely declined her request. Based on past experience, I knew my SSN was not required.
Bottom line is to protect yourself from Identity Theft and safeguard highly sensitive personal information like your SSN.
When to Give Your Social Security Number
Now you may be asking yourself, when should I give out my SSN? Take another look at the Social Security Administration guidance above. Here are some great articles that go more in detail on that subject also: