Employers, creditors, and even insurance agents typically ask for your Social Security number as part of their screening or application process. However, there are some situations where you should refrain from sharing those nine digits.
The federal government advises all consumers to only give out their SSN when they are filing income taxes, applying for employment or a loan, submitting a driver’s license application, or when they are applying for government benefits. Other than that, you need to be very cautious about sharing your Social Security number online or offline.
Here are some situations where you don’t want to give out your Social Security number:
In an email. If a customer service representative from a company requests your Social Security number for account verification purposes via email, make sure it’s not some type of scam. Most companies only request the last four digits of your SSN to verify your identity and will do so over the phone. Don’t just hit the “reply” button and send this sensitive information that may be viewable by a third party.
Online forms. Unless you are applying for a credit card or loan through a secure, encrypted website, you should never enter your Social Security number into any type of online form. Any companies or individuals that need this information will either ask for it over the phone or have you fax an official document with that number on it. Certain online forms that aren’t submitted over a safe network and could be stolen easily.
During a phone call from a restricted number. If you get a phone call from a restricted phone number and the caller claims to be a representative of a company or brand you know or do business with, they will usually only need the last four digits of your SSN to verify your identity. Be cautious when someone asks for all nine digits over the phone. You have the right to request another form of communication that you would feel more comfortable with. It’s your right to just say “no” to disclosing your SSN over the phone.
On your resume. Even though employers might ask for a Social Security number as part of the employment application process, you shouldn’t have to put that number at the top of a resume you send online or even in the mail. This is sensitive information that you should only be submitting through a written form or application that you fill out and sign yourself.
Check payments. There is never a need to write your SSN at the top of a check. Any company or individual that asks you to do this may be part of a scam. And even if they are completely legitimate, remember that if that check gets lost or is misplaced for some reason, your Social Security number could end up in the hands of a complete stranger or a scam artist.
Bottom line: guard your social security number and question anyone who says they need it. You really don’t want to disclose your SSN unnecessarily, especially since identity theft is on the rise.