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Do you have to give out your Social Security number?

Do you know when you can say no to giving out your Social Security number (SSN)? Do you know why you would not give it out to someone? Read on to find out these answers.

Put your Social Security number in a computer and poof; access to information such as your bank account, your phone number, where you work, where you live, etc.

Today, schools, phone companies, utilities, health clubs, insurance companies, video stores, just about everybody wants your Social Security number. Some of the more prevalent uses are to get your credit rating and determine whether you pay your bills, and to keep track of you through name and address changes.

But companies also use your Social Security number to develop marketing lists, which they can sell to other companies. A list with the numbers is more valuable than one without.

Why should you care who sees your Social Security number? Because, the more people who see it, the more susceptible you are to identity theft. With a SSN someone can fraudulently be using your name and credit report to steal money.

The California Public Interest Research Group estimates that, on average, an identity theft victim will spend 175 hours and $800 trying to clear their record of fraudulent charges.

Who has the right to ask for your number? Anyone can ask; however, there are very few entities that can actually demand it—motor vehicle departments, tax departments and welfare departments, for example. Also, SSNs are required for transactions involving taxes, so that means banks, brokerages, employers, and such also have a legitimate need for your SSN.

Most other businesses have no legal right to demand your SSN.

To date there is no law prohibiting a business from asking for your Social Security number. What you need to know is that you can say no. Ask if the company you are dealing with will accept an alternative piece of identification. If they do not, you can and should refuse to do business with them.

In fact, chances are good that many companies that routinely ask for Social Security numbers will do business with you even if they can’t have your number.

Social Security numbers exist for the purpose of tracking earnings and paying benefits. Keep this in mind when asked for your Social Security number. Ask yourself, does this company really need this number? If you are unsure, ask them why they need it and if there is another form of identity they can use. Remember you do not have to give this number out.

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