Doctors don't need your Soc. Sec. number
Lots of businesses, offices and schools ask you to provide a Social Security number when they don't need it. Handing it over could expose you to identity theft.
This post comes from Adam Levin at partner site Credit.com.
Every time you go to a new doctor or dentist and they give you a clipboard brimming with documents to fill out and sign, notice how they always ask for your Social Security number? Do you dutifully give it up? Did you ever wonder if they really need it?
I once asked a doctor why he wanted it. His response: "I don't really know. I guess it's because we've always asked for it." (In actuality, most doctors ask in case your insurance doesn't pay the entire invoice and/or to fill out a death certificate if you die. Offer a next of kin who knows the number instead, and your phone number for billing issues.)
Almost every day somebody asks for your Social Security number and, like the grand marshal of a parade throwing rose petals or candy to the crowd, you probably give it up without giving it a second thought -- because that's what you've always done.
So, the next time someone asks you for your Social Security number, reflect on this: In December, the Army announced that hackers stole the Social Security numbers of 36,000 visitors to Fort Monmouth in New Jersey, including intelligence officers. Cyber activists took control of the CIA's website. The private information, including some Social Security numbers, of celebrities and political leaders, including FBI director Robert Mueller and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, were exposed.
The sensitive data of First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder recently were posted on a website for the world to see.
Hackers even listened in on a phone call in which the FBI and Scotland Yard were discussing the criminal investigation against those very same hackers, The Washington Post reports.
And these incidents are only the crumbs on top of the coffee cake when you consider that hackers and thieves have improperly accessed more than 600 million consumer files since 2004.
Monty Python had it right
The moral to these horror stories is that if your Social Security number is stored on any computer anywhere, hackers will find a way to access it, or a compromised or disgruntled employee may well walk out the door with it. If your doctor, gym, or child's grade school claims otherwise, that their security systems can protect your private data better than the CIA, FBI and Scotland Yard, to quote Monty Python: "Run away!"
Your identity is your biggest asset, and your Social Security number is the key to your personal kingdom. With it an identity thief can wreak havoc, hijacking your old credit accounts, establishing new ones, buying cars and houses, committing crimes, even obtaining medical products and services while pretending to be you, endangering not just your credit and your reputation, but also your life.
Consumers whose Social Security numbers are exposed in a data breach are five times more likely to become fraud victims than those who aren't, according to the latest identity fraud report by Javelin Strategy & Research.
Just say no
For better or worse, you are the gatekeeper. The person most responsible for shielding your Social Security number is you. Therefore, your mission is to limit, as best you can, the universe of those who gain access to it.
Here's a short list of companies and organizations that have absolutely no business requesting your Social Security number:
Anyone who calls or sends you an official-looking email, who texts you a link to any site or designates a number to call where you are asked to confirm your SSN. If they call, check the credit or debit card that is the subject of the communication, call the customer service number listed on the back, and ask for the security department. If they email or text, do the same, or go directly to the institution's website (provided you know who they are). Make sure you type the correct URL, and make sure that the page where you are asked to enter your information is secure. Only provide personal information if you’re the one who controls the interaction.
Public schools. Your utility bill confirms your address. Your email and phone number give them channels to contact you in an emergency. Asking for your Social Security number is overkill.
Little League, summer camp and the like. For the same reasons, a Social Security number should never be required by these groups. If they ask for your child's birth certificate, show it to them, but don't leave it with them unless they can prove they will protect it. And even then, can you really believe them? If you use credit to pay for the activity, the organization may need your Social Security number. If you pay for it upfront or with a direct debit to your bank account or credit card, they don't. Period.
Supermarkets. A frequent-shopper card is neither a loan nor a bank account. It's merely a tool grocery stores use to track your purchases, primarily for marketing purposes. Regardless, many supermarket chains request customers' Social Security numbers on their application forms. Refuse.
Anybody who approaches you on the street, whether it's a cellphone company salesman offering a free T-shirt or someone running a voter registration campaign. Never, ever give your SSN. If you want an ill-fitting T-shirt festooned with corporate logos, buy one. If you want to register to vote, go to your county board of elections in person.
This is the short list. There are plenty of other organizations that should never get your Social Security number, and if you know one that I've left out, please leave it in the comments.
Don't just hand it over
Once you realize how often you are asked for your Social Security number, you may be surprised. It happens literally all the time. So, the next time someone does, as they inevitably will, here's how to handle it:
- Take a minute and think. Maybe they ask for SSNs blindly, because everyone else does, or because that's how they've always done it. Maybe they actually need it. See if their reason sounds legitimate. (For example, Credit.com's Credit Report Card does ask for your SSN in order to generate your credit score and credit report summary -- an industry standard -- but the information is fully encrypted with a bank-level authentication process.)
- Negotiate. There are many different ways to identify you without a Social Security number, including your driver's license or account number. Fight to use those instead.
- If you must share your Social Security number, do so, but make sure the people taking it down have strong security measures in place to protect it. That said, you only have their assurance and, frankly, in light of the mistakes people make and the sophistication level of hackers, who really knows if they can protect it?
Overcoming the addiction
If all this sounds like a giant pain in the neck, you're right. It is. In the midst of our busy lives, we shouldn't be the only ones concerned with protecting our most valuable identity asset, but it is what it is. Until somebody creates a silver bullet for identity theft, we are forced to take matters into our own hands.
Don't be passive. Ask the companies and nonprofit groups with which you do business how they plan to protect you. Do they password protect and encrypt all the personal information they collect? Do they have strict controls on who has access to computers containing your Social Security number, and do they keep this sensitive data off laptops, tablets and hard drives that are easy to steal or lose?
Like the doctor I met, many companies collect Social Security numbers they don't need because they're operating on autopilot. They've always done it, and their colleagues at other companies do it, so the practice continues and spreads on the strength of simple, dumb inertia.
I believe we are smarter than that. By demanding that companies do a better job protecting our personal information, and refusing to hand out our Social Security numbers like candy at a parade, we can force them to get smarter, too. And if they don't think we're serious about this and the government doesn't finally force them off their Social Security number addiction, it is highly likely that the ultimate regulator of the American economic system, class-action attorneys, will be knocking on their doors.
More on Credit.com and MSN Money:
You should never give your SS# to any employer before being actually hired. Putting your social on a job application and handing to the girl or guy at the desk is just stupid.
Showing your drivers license to a store clerk is just as stupid. Even if the card is not yours What can the clerk do about it?
Filling out all these applications to find work and putting sensitive info on them just violates you later. In most cases you will not even know where the fraud is coming from.
Putting your Social Security Number on things Like CAR Insurance. Why? All they do is run your credit report. That is just to violate you and charge you more. Credit has nothing to do with Insurance at all. If you do not pay for the policy you are not covered -There is no credit involved.
As far as employment-Why would your credit report ever come into play. If you have great credit does that mean you can do the job better than someone that has bad credit.
Credit Reports have hurt this country in a Thousand Ways. Mostly because the info about you normally is wrong. I have seen people loose their whole life's work to handing out their social security number and letting anyone run your social security number.
You only get one number your whole life even after you have been violated the government refuses to give you another.
The fair credit act-needs to be fixed. A credit report is not needed for anything other than if you apply for credit . Yet the credit reporting outfits sells your info all the time without you knowing it. Even if you freeze your credit report they still violate you. The country went with this NON-SENSE.
Your social Security Number is the most important thing in your life GIVE IT TO NO ONE....
While I agree with many of the people you have listed who do not need your social security number (ssn), you are wrong about your doctor not needing it. See your mistake was you asked "a doctor'. His job is to deal with your health issues, he pays someone to deal with the business of your health issues. Someone like me. I have owned a medical billing company for about 21 years now. I have seen many changes over the years & yet I can tell you without hesitation that we still use many patient's ssn when dealing with insurance companies a large percentage of the time. In fact, it is an absolute necessity to have it for patients with Medicare, Tricare (military) and those covered by unions & trust funds. We can not submit a claim for benefits without a social security number (ssn), they will not even accept without one. Then there are the commercial carriers like Aetna, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, United Healthcare, etc who in light of this issue now assign their insured with a unique ID# in place of using your ssn. In this case, yes, people be smart, USE THE CARD they send you. If they send you a new one you need to give the doctors office a copy of it. It needs to be neat, clean & readable. If you do not have it, the only other way to get your benefits & coverage information, as well as submit your claims for payment, is with your ssn. Last but not least, yes, we use it for collection purposes if you do not pay your bill. We do our best to collect your deductibles, co pays & co-insurance up front, but if your benefits end up being different than what we are told when we call for them, then you the patient are responsible for the amount as indicated by your insurance company. Trust me, we do not like it anymore than you do. That said, you should realize that healthcare is a business. The doctor should be paid for the expertise & service he provides. My point being that if you do not pay your bill, just like a credit card or utility bill, we have to go thru the collections process & that requires your ssn. Therefore simply giving me your phone number that you can change on a whim is not going to cut it. In conclusion, if you do not want to give your doctor your ssn that is your right & your choice, but then you should be prepared to pay for your services up front & in full.
I realized several years ago the biggest threat to your identity is the police themselves. I've had a police scanner. Sometimes when they call in your license information the dispatcher further identifies you with D.O.B., eye/hair color, height, address and everything else on that card.
Not all criminals are stupid! I've memorized My license number for those rare times I don't carry it on and will not give it out even to a cop. I haven't been arrested for it yet, but have been threatened with it.
Relative to the suggestion that someone just "make up a [ss] number"- what if you end up putting down someone else's SSN? Haven't you in some way, although inadvertently, committed fraud?
Total BS that everyone needs you SSN to do business.
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