What's Your "Social"?

"What's your 'Social'?"  "May I have your your SSN?"  "I need your Social Security number."  Most of us has been asked for this important number many times.  Perhaps you were visiting a doctor's office for the first time.  Maybe you were applying for a new credit card online.  You might even have been asked for your SSN during an unsolicited phone call. 

You know that it is important to protect the confidentiality of your SSN to help protect yourself from identity theft.  But when should you give out your SSN if you are asked for it?  And when should you refuse?  Our new infographic Should I Give My Social Security Number? helps you decide when it is appropriate to provide it if asked.  The infographic covers online, telephone, and in-person requests for your SSN.

The following are general guidelines:

  • Provide your SSN only when it is absolutely necessary (for example: tax forms, employment records, and most banking, stock and property transactions).
  • If a private business requests your SSN, don’t be afraid to ask why they need it.  Inquire about another option. 
  • Never give out your SSN during a phone call that you did not initiate.
  • Never provide your SSN when shopping online.
  • If you must provide your SSN online, such as when applying for a credit card, bank account, or government benefit, check the address bar for both a padlock symbol and an “https” (encrypted) web address.

Here are some additional tips to protect your SSN:

  • Never say your SSN out loud when you are in a public place.
  • Don't carry your SSN card in your wallet except for situations when it is required, for example, the first day on the job.
  • If possible, do not provide your SSN on job applications. Offer to provide it when you start the job or when a pre-employment background check is conducted.
  • Don't have your SSN printed on your checks.
  • Never use your SSN (or any part of it) as a password or user name.

Be sure to read our Consumer Guide My Social Security Number - How Secure Is It? for more information about protecting your SSN.