According to the Social Security Administration, consumers are obliged to provide their number for tax returns and federal loans, credit applications, government programs, financial institutions, employers and the Department of Motor Vehicles. Social Security numbers are also required to obtain reports through the credit reporting companies.
While consumers are often asked for their Social Security number by physicians, dentists, utilities, potential employers, employment recruiters, temp agencies and schools, as well as some retailers, pawn shops and other businesses, there is no legal requirement to provide your Social Security number. However, no law prevents them from refusing to do business with you if you refuse.
When asked to provide your Social Security number, here's what the BBB suggests you do:
- Ask under what law the number is required.
- Find out if alternative methods of identification are acceptable, such as a driver’s permit or only the last four digits of your number.
- In the case of employment recruiters or temp agencies, find out whether you may give your Social Security number directly to a potential employer.
- Determine who will have access to this data.
- Ask what steps are taken to protect your personal information.