How Can I Protect My Social Security Number?
Many people assume that they are required to give their SSN whenever and by whoever asked. That is simply not true. Federal law does not prohibit a merchant or other business from requesting your SSN. However, there is no state or federal law that requires you to provide your SSN to any entity not authorized by law to require it. Businesses, private agencies, etc. are free to request your SSN and use it for any purpose that does not violate state or federal law.
For example, retail stores, prospective landlords, prospective employers, utility companies, and other service providers often ask you your SSN, but they do not need to and you are not required to give it. They can do a credit check or ID their customers by alternative means.
Remember you are under no obligation to provide your SSN to any merchant or other business. However, that merchant or other business is free to decline your business if you refuse to disclose your SSN.
Agencies that may require your SSN:
- Government tax and welfare agencies, including the IRS, other federal agencies (for health benefits and other entitlements), state/local tax or revenue agencies.
- State professional/occupational/recreational licensing agencies.
- Other governmental agencies -- under federal law, they must tell you why your SSN is needed, whether giving your SSN is mandatory or voluntary, and how your SSN is to be used.
- Employer – You employer can require it for wage/tax purposes, but NOT from a job applicant.
- Banks and securities brokerages -- under the USA Patriot Act, 31 U.S.C. § 5318, financial institutions are required to establish minimum standards for properly identifying their customers opening new accounts (include checking, savings, loans, safe deposit boxes, and/or investments). Under federal regulations adopted in May 2003, banks, savings associations, credit unions, securities broker-dealers, futures commissions merchants, and mutual funds were required to have Customer Identification Programs (“CIPs”) in place by October 1, 2003. Information required to identify customers under a CIP includes name, date of birth, address, and a social security or federal tax identification number.
- State motor vehicle departments – the may collect your SSN but Colorado law prohibits the recording of your SSN on your driver’s license or state identification card.
Consider asking these questions:
- Am I required by some law to provide my SSN?
- Why do they need my SSN?
- How will they use my SSN?
- Will they share my SSN with other businesses or agencies?
- What happens if I refuse to give them my SSN?
- Are there alternative means of identification they will accept?
If you believe you have been victimized by Identity Theft, contact the Colorado Bureau of Investigations Identity Theft Hotline or by telephone at 1-855-443-3489 (toll free).