Social Security numbers (or SSNs) used to be tied just to your Social Security benefits. Now, that number is tied to just about everything used to identify you. In this age of identity theft, your Social Security number is one of the most valuable – if not the most valuable – identifiers you have.
Yet, people frequently hand this number out to anyone requesting it without even a second thought as to how it will be protected.
Is whatever product or service you want at the time worth risking your identity?
An even more egregious habit is people carrying their Social Security card, and their children’s cards, in their purse or wallet. If you’re doing this, please stop right now and put those cards in a safe place at home!
An article titled, “5 Times You Don’t Need to Give Out Your Social Security Number” in Yahoo Finance stated that there were more than 15 million cases of identity theft in 2016. In order to limit your risk, consider whether someone requesting your SSN truly needs it. The five places most people think should have their SSN really don’t need it. Those are prospective employers, doctors, schools/colleges, retailers, and sites related to travel-bookings.
Also detailed in the article is each of the reasons you don’t necessarily have to provide your SSN. What’s important to consider for anyone requesting your SSN is why they need it, how they will use it, whether they accept another form of identification, and what will happen if you don’t provide it. Even more importantly, consider asking them how they plan on safeguarding your SSN and what will they do for you should there be a data breach and your SSN is stolen (think of the Equifax fiasco).
Identity theft has become such a problem that many employers these days are beginning to offer identity theft protection to workers as part of their employee benefits package.
Obviously, there are several places that offer products and services where you must supply your SSN. Typically, those involve government agencies or financial institutions such as credit card companies, applying for a loan, filing your taxes, state and federal benefits, etc.
The important thing to remember is that just because someone asks you for your Social Security number doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to provide it. Before handing it out, take your time and think about whether they truly need it. Then, decide if you’re willing to risk being another statistic of identity theft.