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Staying secure with your Social Security Number

January 26, 2012 | Alliant Credit Union

Social Security Numbers (SNN) were first issued in 1936 as the federal government's way to track people's earnings and tax them for unemployment and future retirement benefits. Since then, government agencies and businesses have come to depend on these nine-digit numbers for a broad array of non-Social Security uses, such as medical records, employee files, university ID cards, credit bureau reports, health insurance accounts, banking accounts and so on.

In the best of all possible worlds, an SSN would only be known and used by the person to whom it was issued. But, today more than 500,000 to 700,000 people are affected each year by identity theft and a stolen SSN is the key to the crime, according to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. That said, it's in your best interest to protect your SSN whenever possible.

General rules of thumb for when to give your SSN and when not to

Provide your SSN for

  • credit unions/banks
  • employers
  • income tax records
  • vehicle registration
  • credit bureau reports
  • college records
  • loan applications

You may want to refuse to give your SSN

  • over the phone
  • on personal checks
  • to unsolicited email (no reputable company or government agency sends an email requesting sensitive personal information, although ID thieves do)
  • as ID for store purchases
  • as general identification

Sources: privacyrights.org, epic.org and the Credit Union National Association, Inc.


© 2012 Alliant Credit Union. All Rights Reserved.

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