You are legally bound to give your social security number to a very limited number of agencies.
So many people have no idea how readily their private Social Security Number is being abused. Not only that, they have no idea what to do about it.
Lets do a little history for a minute. Back in 1935, the Economic Security Act became the Social Security Act. In 1961, the Civil Service Commission adopted the SSN as the official federal employee identifier. In 1962, the Internal Revenue Service adopted it as the official taxpayer ID number (along side the already functional ITIN [Individual Taxpayer Identification Number]). For more on the history of the Social Security, follow this link “History“.
What the general public doesn’t know, is that you do not have to have a SSN. What does this mean? Well, if you don’t have a SSN, you don’t collect any benefits that you pay into the account over your lifetime of employment. You may choose to have an ITIN instead, for tax purposes to complete your yearly tax forms, and to identify you to the IRS. Many people are not counting on social security benefits, or even the program existing when they reach retirement age, so they are creating IRA’s and other such means to live on after they retire. For more on the ITIN, follow this link “about ITIN’s“.
So, you are asking yourself now, who is authorized to ask for and have my SSN?
The answer is: It depends upon the agency. Some government agencies, including tax authorities, welfare offices and state Department of Motor Vehicles offices, can require your Social Security number as mandated by federal law (42 USC 405 (c)(2)(C)(v) and (i)). Others may request the SSN in such a manner that you are led to believe you must provide it. Basically, “a federal or state (or political subdivision thereof) agency, in the administration of any tax, general public assistance, driver’s license, or motor vehicle registration law within it’s jurisdiction, can request and utilize your SSN issued by the Commissioner of Social Security for the purpose of establishing your identity affected by such law.”
Do I have to provide my Social Security number to private businesses?
Usually you are not legally compelled to provide your Social Security number to private businesses — including private health care providers and insurers, unless you are involved in a transaction in which the Internal Revenue Service requires notification. (Medicaid and Medicare are government health plans and can require a Social Security number.)
There is no law, however, that prevents businesses from requesting your SSN, and there are few restrictions on what businesses can do with it.
With identity theft on the rise at epidemic proportions, what is the best way to protect yourself from giving out your SSN to anyone other than your employer or authorized government agent or agency? Type up or print out a copy of Title 42 Chapter 7 Subchapter II Section 408 pgh (a)(8) which states:
“whosoever discloses, uses, or compels the disclosure of the social security number of any person in violation of the laws of the United States; shall be guilty of a felony and upon conviction thereof shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned for not more than five years, or both.”
Then write a short paragraph underneath stating ” I, the undersigned, am fully aware of the laws governing the purpose, use and disclosure of a social security number and verify that I am not compelling any person to disclose their assigned social security number to myself for any other purpose except to be used for social security tax withholding from earned wages.” and have them sign it, print their name, their title and their business or company affiliation.
Hand it to them and ask them to sign it before you give them your social security number.
If they sign it, then this means they have every legal federal right to have possession of your social security number. Other than that, they have no legal right to ask you for it. IF they “compel” you to disclose your SSN to them, then it’s a felony. However, if a business refuses you their services, they are within their rights not to sell you their product or services. If you find yourself in a situation where they need some way of identifying who you are, well, all I can say is that a birth certificate and a driver’s license have always been valid forms of identification.
Somewhere along the line since 1935, private and commercial businesses just up and decided they “need” your SSN because it is a good way to keep track of you in their records. You might consider that if they have no other way of keeping track of you or identifying who you are in their records, then who’s problem is it? yours? or theirs?
Protect yourself, and don’t disclose any information about yourself that is protected by the Privacy Act of 1974, found here “1974 Privacy Act“.