I never give out my social security number, for the obvious reason.
Together with my name and birthdate (easily found on social media), my social security number is all an identity thief would need to make my life miserable.
Though I do hope having a name like “Siobhán Kratovil” would give a would-be identity thief enough pause to skip my name in favor of one easier to spell and pronounce.
Okay, so we all know we aren’t supposed to just give out our social security number. Isn’t it crazy to think of how many times you get asked for yours (or your kid’s) number?
Hospitals, medical and dental offices, pharmacies, schools, children’s camps, supermarket loyalty program, and charities are some of the places I have been asked for either mine or one of my kid’s social security numbers in the last few months.
When are you absolutely required to provide your social security number?
Courtesy of the fine folks at the Social Security Administration, here are the places where you legally cannot refuse to provide your social security number:
- IRS for tax returns and federal loans
- Employers for wage and tax reporting
- Employers enrolled in E-Verify
- States for the school lunch program
- Banks for monetary transactions
- Veterans Administration as a hospital admission number
- Department of Labor for workers’ compensation
- Department of Education for Student Loans
- States to administer any tax, general public assistance, motor vehicle or drivers license law
- States for child support enforcement
- States for commercial drivers’ licenses
- States for Food Stamps
- States for Medicaid
- States for Unemployment Compensation
- States for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families
- U.S. Treasury for U.S. Savings Bonds
Do you see the trend here? IRS, government benefits, the DMV may legitimately need your social security number. Everyone else, nope.
Who doesn’t need your social security number?
Pharmacies, hospitals, doctors, and dentists to name a few, if you are paying cash or filing with insurance. The only reason they would ever need your social security number is if you are using Medicare (your social security number is also your Medicare number).
So why does every single pharmacy, hospital, doctor, and dental form ask for a social security number? Antiquated forms is the reason in most cases.
Schools and summer camps? They don’t need social security numbers either, unless you are applying for free or reduced price lunch.
If they don’t need your social security number, but still ask, what should you do?
So assuming you are not dealing with the IRS, the DMV, or the military, what should you do if you are asked for your social security number?
First, challenge the request and ask why they need your social security number. Offer alternative forms of ID such as your driver’s license as proof of who you are.
What should you do if you are pretty certain there’s no legitimate need for your social security number, but the place you are dealing with refuses to do business with you unless you provide it?
Well, then you have a choice. If you want to do business with this place, you’re going to have to cough up your number.
I ran into this situation recently. I was applying for a new school for one of my daughters. The application asked for her social security number, presumably to verify her name and on the off chance I would apply for free or reduced cost lunch.
I provided a birth certificate as proof of her identity (and citizenship) and fortunately I don’t have to rely school lunch programs. I politely pointed out to the registrar that the school did not in fact need my daughter’s social security number. The response back? She refused to accept the application and said that there are going to be more applications than spots and if I wasn’t going to fill out all of the information requested someone else will.
Well alrighty then, here’s her number, but if I start getting strange bills in the mail addressed to my daughter, I am coming after you lady.
Copyright © 2019 by Siobhán Fitzpatrick Kratovil. All Rights Reserved.
My parents explicitly taught all of their children to guard their social security numbers with their lives and taught us who may need our number and who did not. During college, I was able to avoid using my social security number to apply and be admitted only to have every professor expect your name and entire social security number written on all submitted assignments, which I fought every semester. The DMV, at the time I was licensed as a young one, would use one’s social security number as their driver’s license number. I fought that as well. The fight is harder today. No one wants to do business without asking for a social security number from their patrons. It is frustrating.