Do I Have to Give My SSN?
Merchants take a risk when they allow consumers to pay with checks. So it’s reasonable for them to ask for proof of identity.
Most, for instance, want to see a state-issued driver’s license or non-driver’s id to verify the address on the check. They may also ask to see a second piece of identification, like a work ID or major credit card, to confirm the consumer’s name.
Unfortunately, however, some merchants expect consumers to disclose too much personal information. As a result, they unwittingly create unreasonable risks for their customers.
Patricia Verity tried to write a check for services at a veterinarian’s office. She reconsidered when the office manager told her she would have to disclose her Social Security number.
I offered my driver’s license, but refused to divulge my Social Security number. As a result, I was told my check would not be accepted, the Manhattan woman explained. She paid instead with a debit card.
It was a smart move. To minimize your risk of identity theft, only give your Social Security number when it is essential or required by law. Your Social Security number is required only on tax forms, employment records and most banking, stock and property transactions and credit reports.
Your employer and financial institutions, for instance, need your Social Security number for wage and tax reporting purposes. Other businesses may ask for it to do a credit check if you are applying for a loan, renting an apartment or signing up for utilities.
Increasingly, however, businesses simply want your Social Security number for general record keeping. There is no law that prevents them from asking for it. However, there is no law that requires you to provide it, either.
Before you disclose your Social Security number, find out why the business needs it, how the number will be used, how the business will protect it from theft and what will happen if you refuse to provide it. There is always an option, including taking your business somewhere else.”