Identity theft is real, and many tips urge you to safeguard your Social Security number as an important way to prevent it from happening to you. While not every request for your Social Security number is an effort to steal your identity, not all such requests are mandatory.
In general, you will need to provide your SSN to:
• Employers for wage and tax reporting purposes.
• Financial institutions, such as banks or brokerage firms, for tax reporting purposes.
• Banks, credit card issuers or other lenders if you apply for a loan or new credit card.
• Landlords or utility providers (such as a power company) for a credit check.
• Government agencies to obtain services and to file your taxes.
• Credit reporting agencies—Equifax, Experian or TransUnion—or AnnualCreditReport.com to obtain your credit report or credit score.
Businesses or individuals may ask for your SSN for a variety of reasons. For example, though not mandatory, utility companies may ask you to provide a SSN. Whenever an individual or entity requests your SSN, it's a good idea to ask the following questions:
• Why do you need my SSN?
• Will you accept a different form of identification (such as a telephone number, driver's license or passport)?
• How will you use my SSN?
• How do you protect my SSN and other information from being stolen or misused?
• What will happen if I don't provide my SSN?
The answers you get to these questions will help determine whether you should provide your SSN—or choose not to reveal it.
For more information about protecting yourself from identity theft, visit www.finra.org.
FINRA is the largest independent regulator for all securities firms doing business in the United States. Our chief role is to protect investors by maintaining the fairness of the U.S. capital markets. FINRA does not endorse, sponsor, or guarantee, nor is it sponsored by, any advertisers on this site, and any dealings with those advertisers are solely between you and the advertisers.