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Who can legally ask for a social security number (and who can’t)?

Posted by: Advisors Management Group in Tips

In the 1930s, the US government began issuing social security cards as a means to track retirement and disability benefits to which individuals were entitled.

Very quickly, businesses and agencies started using them for identification purposes. It was just so convenient that every US citizen and permanent resident had one. But with this proliferation of uses for social security numbers came a steep increase in identity theft. 

Once a thief has your social security number, it’s easy to start opening financial accounts in your name.

So, where is the sweet spot between giving businesses and agencies the information they need and protecting your identity? Who can ask for a social security number – and who can’t? Keep reading to learn more from our financial advisors in LaCrosse.

Situations where you legally must provide your Social Security number

There are times when you will need to give your social security number. These include:

  • Anything that requires tax reporting, such as employers reporting your income.
  • Banks for monetary transactions such as getting a loan or opening a line of credit. This can include other entities where you open a line of credit such as a phone contract.
  • Real estate transactions.
  • Government agencies (both state and federal) that provide benefits or services such as administration of taxes, driver’s licenses, child support enforcement, Medicaid, food stamps and unemployment compensation, student loans, and workers’ compensation.
  • Making cash transactions over $10,000.
  • When working with an investment advisor.
  • Applying for group health insurance through an employer.

Situations where you don’t have to provide your Social Security number

Businesses will often ask for your social security number because it’s an easy way to track your account. It’s also an easy way to track you down for collection purposes. 

That doesn’t mean they really need it or should have it. Here are some examples.

Business over phone or email

Refuse to give your social security number when someone representing themselves as an agent of a business, even one you use, asks for it during a call or email you did not initiate. 

This is a common way for scammers to steal identities.

On a job application

Although employers can ask for your social security number, they should not be asking for it on a job application before you are hired. Leave it blank until you accept an offer.

The doctor’s office

When you visit a new doctor, the staff typically hands you a form to complete. Often, that form asks for a social security number. There is usually no reason that they need it, and you’re better off leaving it blank.

School enrollment

Public schools cannot require the social security number of a child or their parents to enroll. You can use other documentation for proof of identity. You also aren’t required to provide a social security number to enroll in college. 

However, be aware that applying for financial aid of any kind will require a social security number. 

Ask these questions

The more you spread your social security number around, the more you increase your chances of identity theft. If you’re concerned about whether or not a business can ask for your social security number, ask these questions:

  • Why do you need my social security number?
  • How will you use my social security number?
  • Where and how are you storing my social security number?
  • Is there another form of identification you would accept instead?
  • What will happen if I do not provide my social security number?

What may happen if you refuse

It’s not illegal for a business to ask you for your social security number, even if it’s not legally required. If they will not accept another form of identification, they may refuse to provide service.

Keep your financial future safe with Advisors Management Group

If you have more questions about who can legally ask for your social security number or keeping your financial data safe, don’t hesitate to contact us now. A knowledgeable financial advisor in Eau Claire or a financial advisor in Green Bay can answer your questions and help you make sound financial decisions.

We have offices conveniently located in La Crosse (608.782.0200), Eau Claire (715.834.9512), and Green Bay (920.434.2192), Wisconsin.

Advisors Management Group, Inc. is a registered investment adviser whose principal office is located in Wisconsin. Opinions expressed are those of AMG and are subject to change, not guaranteed, and should not be considered recommendations to buy or sell any security. Past performance is no guarantee of future returns, and investing involves multiple risks, including, but not limited to, the risk of permanent losses. Please do not send orders via email as they are not binding and cannot be acted upon. Please be advised it remains the responsibility of our clients to inform AMG of any changes in their investment objectives and/or financial situation.  This commentary is limited to the dissemination of general information pertaining to AMG’s investment advisory/management services. Any subsequent, direct communication by AMG  with a prospective client shall be conducted by a representative that is either registered or qualifies for an exemption or exclusion from registration in the state where the prospective client resides. A copy of our current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees continues to remain available for your review upon request.

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