Is It Ever OK To Share Your Social Security Number?

Senior couple using laptop with their financial advisor during a meeting int he office.
Drazen Zigic / Getty Images/iStockphoto

One of the most important identifiers for an individual is their Social Security number. When you are born, the United States Social Security Administration assigns you a nine-digit number called a Social Security number. This unique number allows government agencies to identify individuals in their records. Once individuals start working, employers submit accurate reports of their covered earnings. The government uses these reports to administer benefits under the Social Security program.

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Your Social Security number protects a great deal of your personal information. If you do not carefully protect it, you may be at risk of identity theft. Here are a few instances in which the Social Security Administration said it’s OK to share your Social Security number and advice for safeguarding this important identifier.

Employers

If you start a new job, you may share your Social Security number with your employer. The Social Security Administration said that it’s important for your employer to have your correct Social Security number to ensure records are correct.

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Financial Institutions

Financial institutions, like banks and credit unions, will need to review your taxpayer identification number for tax reporting purposes. Most people use and share their Social Security numbers with these institutions. You may also share your Social Security number with credit reporting institutions to identify your credit record.

Landlords

The Social Security Administration said that landlords are considered individuals who legitimately need information about you. If you are renting an apartment or property, you may share your Social Security number with the landlord or property management company.

Government Agencies

Your Social Security number is necessary to share with some government agencies. Generally, these include tax agencies, welfare offices and the state department of motor vehicles (DMV). 

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How You Can Protect Your Social Security Number

There are simple ways you can protect your Social Security number in everyday life. Here are a few recommended practices from the Social Security Administration.

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Do Not Carry Your Social Security Card on You

If you are out and about, do not keep your Social Security card in your wallet. Wallets, and their contents, can be easily stolen. Store this card in a safe place in your home. If you have any other documents in your personal belongings that may have your Social Security number written on them, like paperwork or cards, take this information out and keep it in your home.

Shred Paperwork

Identity theft often occurs in the trash. Someone who rummages through your personal trash, company trash and public trash dumps may find and steal your identity from the garbage. Shred any paperwork where your Social Security number is present. Businesses should also shred documents and any IDs or badges that may contain the Social Security numbers of employees on them rather than throwing out paperwork. 

Clean Out Your Mailbox

If an identity thief doesn’t find any relevant paperwork in the trash, they may try to go to your mailbox next. Many people still receive paper bank and credit card statements and these statements include your personal information. Clean out your mailbox regularly to avoid running this risk.

Do Not Give Your Social Security Number Out Via Phone or Email

Today, it is not unusual for identity thieves to call or email people asking for their Social Security numbers. Many of these methods are getting increasingly sophisticated. Identity thieves may call in from legitimate area codes or send emails that sound like they are coming from someone you trust like your boss or landlord.

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If you think someone is lying about who they are to get your Social Security number out of you, the Social Security Administration said it is in your right to ask questions. Ask why your number is needed, how it will be used and what will happen if you refuse to give it out. 

Pro Tip: Ask For Disclosure Forms

Even in scenarios where you are asked to share your Social Security number and feel secure about its use, it’s a good practice to ask questions to further protect your identity.

If you are working with a government agency, ask to review a disclosure form if one is not provided to you. This form will state if your Social Security number is a requirement or optional. Disclosure forms will also mention how the number is used and the agency’s legal authority in using it, allowing you to feel peace of mind in knowing your Social Security number is in safe use.

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About the Author

Heather Taylor is a senior finance writer for GOBankingRates. She is also the head writer and brand mascot enthusiast for PopIcon, Advertising Week’s blog dedicated to brand mascots. She has been published on HelloGiggles, Business Insider, The Story Exchange, Brit + Co, Thrive Global, and more media outlets. 

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