If you’ve noticed we are constantly asked for our social security numbers for a variety of reasons. Whether applying for a credit loan, opening a new bank account or filling out a job application it’s a sure bet that we need to include our social security number. But did you know that when someone has access to your SS# they are able to conduct a background check or a credit check with little to no additional information?
The truth is that this is not the correct use of one’s social security number. It is, in fact, an abuse of your private information. Upon its inception in 1936 the only purpose of this number was to track the working history of U.S. workers to determine what benefits (and how much) they were entitled to upon retirement age. Although that is still the primary reason for obtaining a social security number it’s use has spread into the private sector in an alarming way.
In general there are no laws prohibiting the use of your social security number by the private sector but in 1971 a task force within the SSA (Social Security Administration) itself recommended that the number not be used as any type of identifier for people. In 1973 the Department of Education, Health and Welfare also concluded that using a person’s SSN to identify them for any purpose other than it was created for was a bad idea. Nevertheless today we find that we must provide this number for a variety of reasons both to the federal government as well as to the private sector.
In a world where identity theft has become such a major issue it is imperative that we protect our private information but that’s much easier said than done. While you can certainly refuse to give your number to a prospective employer or loan officer at the bank it’s a sure bet that you won’t be getting a call from either one of them very soon.
Like many other parts of what was once private information we are now expected to give our social security number when asked and it isn’t always for the best. You should be aware that scammers will often try to obtain your SSN in a variety of ways including fake job advertisements, fraudulent “easy loan” scams and many others.
The bottom line is that you should protect all of your personal information including your driver’s license #, credit card #’s, SSN, name and address, tax ID #, anything that can allow someone else to assume your identity in some manner. If you are not comfortable providing this information to someone else than don’t do it. As the old saying goes, “Information is power” and that is especially true if the wrong person knows too much about you.