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When is giving your SSN really necessary?

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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