Protect Your
Biggest Asset

From doctors' offices to banks, social security number requests are pretty common. But are they necessary? While it seems like just about everyone is asking for those precious nine digits these days, for the sake of your identity it might be worth thinking twice when considering who you're willing to give them to.

Woman holding her social security card

So, what should you know?

Remember: While it's easy to say this will never happen to you, the reality is that no matter who you give your number to, if it gets into the hands of the wrong person it has the potential to ruin your reputation and credit, and deplete your bank accounts, too.

Your social security number is the key to everything from your credit reports to your bank accounts — protecting those digits is crucial. Never put your social security number on your checks or your credit receipts. And if anything makes you raise an eyebrow, it's best to ask questions.

The good news

Protecting your social security number is easier than you think. Knowing when it's necessary and taking simple steps to secure that information can help protect your money, identity and reputation.

Start by knowing who should and shouldn't have your personal information. Although many businesses, schools and organizations request it, that doesn't mean it's required. In most situations, an alternative form of identification like your driver's license will be accepted.

What if providing a social security number is necessary?

Only in very specific situations is a social security number required. Banks and lenders use personal information for credit purposes, and a business may request personal information for a new-hire background check.

Other places where a social security number would be necessary include:

  • Doctor's office paperwork
  • Tax forms
  • Government benefit applications
  • Driver's license applications
  • Applications for other government-funded programs, such as welfare and workers' compensation

Now that you know when giving your social security number is necessary, how do you make sure that information is secure?

Reduce the risk of someone getting your personal information by asking questions about why the information is needed. And finally, ensure the information will be safeguarded and ask questions about maintaining patient/employee privacy.

Keep in mind

Just because you are careful with your personal information doesn't mean others are. You can reduce your risk of someone getting access to your personal data by wisely managing your personal information and following these additional tips:

  1. Watch out for scams
  2. Never give personal information out over the internet
  3. Review your credit report regularly

More on identity protection

5 Times you should never share your social security number
How to protect your privacy and identity with passwords
10 Tips to prevent ID fraud during the holiday season


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Comments on "When is giving your SSN really necessary?"

Lauralee Hensley September 22, 2013 | 5:29 PM

I've had debt collectors calling for some unknown person and I tell them they don't live here and I don't know them. They've asked for my SS number and I tell them nope. Then they say well at least give us the last four, and I say nope. I tell them if they call back I'll contact my lawyer. I have in fact done that when one company was calling and leaving threatening phone calls. The lawyer checked the company out. Basically they were broke because they had already gotten into big trouble in another state and were sued by multiple people over the same thing. So, he said there was no point in suing them, as nothing to sue for, but he was keeping my tapes and turning them into some Federal Agencies. So, watch out they'll try to get your number even if they are trying to do a collection on someone else. Don't give it out.

Sara September 19, 2013 | 10:20 AM

From Comcast to utility companies just about everybody ask for it!!!! Atrocious.

Mikey September 16, 2013 | 12:26 PM

Not mentioned here at all; and I find it odd. Employers need it to withhold FICA, not for background check.

Curt September 16, 2013 | 12:17 PM

A Walmart employee, selling out of State fishing licenses in the of Illinois demanded a Social Security number or she would not sell me a license. Fishing was not good. Was it because I had no License?

Bobby September 14, 2013 | 1:21 PM

For doctors, especially under un-Constitutional ObamaCare, make your fake SSN start with "999." Those first three digits are never used by the SSA, and you can't be accused of "identity theft" if the O

K September 10, 2013 | 3:59 AM

You do NOT have to give SSN for doctors. Insurance is all they're concerned with or else cash, check or credit card to make payment. No SSN!

Tina September 09, 2013 | 9:10 AM

Doctor's offices DO NOT need your social security number. Some claim their computer systems require it, but only your health insurance provider needs that information (and even that is questionable these days). Just tell them you don't give out that information. Most will accept that as an answer. Other offices may balk, but usually only mildly and nowadays offer a means to "trick" their antiquated computer systems with false SS#s to fill the field in their software. Years ago, Humana, Anthem and other insurers would print SS#'s right on the card. Now they generate and print an in-house user ID to help deter identity theft.

Gael September 08, 2013 | 11:09 AM

When the Social Security system was being debated before passage, The government assured citizens that the SS# would never be used for identification for anything else. There was a reasonable dread by citizens, that the SS# would become a national ID #, like those demanded by officials and police in dictatorships. The early SS cards had clearly printed on their backs, "Not to be used for identification purposes." You will notice that statement is no longer on SS cards.

Dee August 29, 2013 | 12:04 PM

I just make up a number . Bank and Gov stuff is the only ones I give a SS# to. Been working for me. Just change the last four numbers.

Charles August 28, 2013 | 6:04 AM

After my daughter married, she applied for electric service where she was living. The utility company required a *notarized* photocopy of both her social security card and drivers license. I contacted the Social Security Administration and was told that businesses can require a potential customer's SSN or deny service. Also, a former law preventing SSN disclosure to all but government entities and banks was has been removed. I contacted our state's public utility commission and was told that companies have the right to run their business as they see fit. The scary part of this fiasco is that the utility uses a third-party to administer billing & applications... much of the company operations are off-shore. One more thing: I don't believe that any company can keep data secure. I retired from one of the largest government contractors in the US. All it took to publish the company's employees & spouses personal data on the internet was a single disgruntled employee with access to the data.

TJ August 25, 2013 | 6:15 AM

wrong. the dr's office does not need your SSN. insurance policy numbers are all that's needed...i've told them more than once to use my insurance id numbers instead....i will not give out my ssn under any circumstances. when they ask for your ssn they are just taking the easy road....they know they can get the information needed without it...but if 98% of people provide it anyway, no need to change the system!

tj August 24, 2013 | 5:28 AM

I think that the only reason you should give out your social is on government forms exp;[taxes,loans,exc...]

David August 20, 2013 | 3:07 AM

Dr offices and medical, people need your social to make sure they have the right Pt for treatment. I have came across people with the same name and DOB, a SSN is the only way to insure the right person is getting the right treatment and/or medications.

Greg August 11, 2013 | 12:27 AM

Any type of insurance your going to have to give your ss#?

Glenn Green August 08, 2013 | 4:51 AM

Make up your mind on the doctors office part. You say give it out in this article and then say "Do Not" in the link "5 Times you should never share your social security number" at the bottom of this page. http://www.sheknows/living/articles/818237/5-Times-you-should-never-share-your-social-security-number. Doctors only want your SSI # so they can collect any unpaid bills easier and faster. Glenn

Ron August 06, 2013 | 7:27 PM

Speaking of privacy; why the hell do sights like these need an email address for readers to add a comment? I always make up a fake one so I don't later get spammed. My doctor will get mine when he's willing to give his to me.

Rick August 03, 2013 | 7:10 PM

I agree with your comments. However, people on Social Security give out there SS# every time they use their Medicare Card. When is the government going to change this system??????

Tina August 02, 2013 | 7:26 AM

Your doc's office has no need for your SS#. Your insurance account numbers are plenty. Unfortunately all too often, people apply for and receive all sorts of gov't handouts without even having a SS#.

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