Editorial: Keep your Social Security Number secret
It may not seem like a big deal to give your Social Security Number out to every business that asks, it may seem no different than giving out your driver's license number or your phone number, but there is a huge difference: Privacy.
With your Social Security Number, people can find all kinds of your personal information and exploit that however they wish. One private investigator boasted that once he got hold of a person's Social Security Number, he could find out amazing amounts of information about them, using the Internet's resources to build a tremendous personal profile, including relatives, professional licenses, addresses used in the past 10 years, and all within about 10 minutes. He said he frequently locates people who don't want to be located this way.
Do you have someone stalking you? Is there an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend you wish would quit looking you up? Then quit giving out your Social Security Number to every Victoria's Secret catalogue or computer lab that asks for it!
Unlike credit card numbers or driver's licenses, there is a vast amount of information linked to a single Social Security Number. It would be very easy to set up SEVERAL credit cards using the SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER and name of another person, and rack up thousands of dollars in credit before the victim even saw a bill. Since most credit card companies figure only the owner has access to his own Social Security Number, they generally don't require much more information that number. They have no way of verifying address or phone information, since people move around frequently.
Another troubling way Social Security numbers are used against us is by companies who share our personal information with other companies, who then bombard us with targeted advertising. Ever wonder how all those telemarketers get your name, your phone number and/or your Social Security Number? There are very sophisticated companies that are beginning to create extensive profiles of customers, and then sell these profiles to other companies. Do you really want these people knowing every little detail about your private life?
These companies should not be requiring Social Security numbers. There is federal law, which is generally ignored, prohibiting companies from asking for Social Security numbers. Next time someone asks you for your Social Security Number, ask them if they are violating federal law, and tell them you would prefer not to give your Social Security Number. With the exception of a few government agencies, they cannot require you to give them your Social Security Number.