Iowans are frequently warned about identity theft and crooks who steal not your physical goods but your credit. A key part of that is the use of Social Security numbers, which are important identification. Debra Moore in the Attorney General’s consumer-protection office says while it’s easy to use that 9-digit number to list clients, students, or customers, it’s a bad idea.
Many schools are switching to using randomly-generation ID numbers, instead of people’s social-security numbers, and her office as well as other consumer organizations are supporting that as a way to reduce identity theft. There was a time when people didn’t get a Social Security number until they were almost an adult, but Moore says that’s changed.
The IRS now requires you have a Social Security number for any child you claim as a tax deduction, so you will now get forms at the hospital to fill out for the newborn baby’s social security number, at the same time you apply for the birth certificate. Many retailers have now quit asking for the number when customers write a check, knowing that people are more reluctant to give it out. but Moore says some still may request your number as a form of identification. She says you have a few options if that happens.
You can pay cash instead, or ask to talk to the manager. She suggests a buyer even give the consumer protection office a call, and have them talk to the store manager about some alternatives. If you can’t reach agreement, some customers might cancel their purchase, rather than give out sensitive financial data. Social Security numbers were created in 1935 to track earnings and retirement benefits of workers, and Moore says you’ll have to give it to an employer, and use it when you do your income taxes.
If you’re applying for credit they’ll need it, to link you with your credit report and information. Right now, Medicare uses the social security number to identify clients. There are relatively few times when it’s really needed, and Moore says otherwise, you don’t have to give it, and you probably shouldn’t.