I had an interesting (in this case interesting = unpleasant) episode with Mr. Husband about my Social Security number recently. It got me to thinking about privacy, identity theft and social engineering. How we are programmed to “be nice” and “cooperate.” Thieves, scammers and even legitimate businesses take advantage of that. How many times have you been asked for information that you were not comfortable parting with, but gave it anyway because you didn’t want to make a scene, be embarrassed, or take your business elsewhere?
It all started with preparation for a heart stress test. The hub-man is preparing to take his first one. I offered to stress him out to make the test more realistic, but he declined. Any who, he was filling out 9 thousand pages of pre-test paperwork and at one point there is a space for the spouse’s social security number so he asked for my number.
Being a rabid privacy advocate I asked him “what do you want it for?” Well for the form of course. “But YOU are taking the test and I am not even a client of this particular Doctor’s office. Why do they need MY social security number? They don’t need yours either, for that matter” “Well it’s on the form …” “So? They don’t need my number, they don’t have the legal right to ask me, and I’m not giving it!” He got ticked off, rolled his eyes, stomped into his office and shut the door.
As a result, I got in my own personal snit. My reasoning is my spouse is supposed to be my mate and protector, right? We got each other’s back and so on. How dare he get angry with me for protecting myself when he won’t? Oh well. I am dealing with a man who will listen to a telemarketer for 15 minutes before saying “ no thank you.” I on the other hand will slam down the phone at the first hint of a junk call without saying a word. Why waste my time or theirs?
So I decided to do a little research into who really can ask for my number. There are not that many situations where giving your number is required.
- Credit applications
- Cash transactions over $10,000
- When applying for certain (not all) federal benefits
- Military paperwork
- The Department of Motor Vehicles (federal law prohibits the use your SS# as your driver’s license number)
Optional (as in you are NOT legally required to give them your SS#)
- Doctor and dentist intake forms
- Some stranger on the phone
- YOUR RELATIVES. Yea, you heard me. Relatives perpetrate almost 50% of identity thefts. Nope it’s not the Russian Mafia Hacker or that prince in Nairobi whose father needs an operation, so please send him 5 million dollars. Sadly, the case of people with ruined credit using the Social Security numbers of their children or elderly parents is on the rise.
According to the McAfee Security firm. The 10 most dangerous places to use your SS# are:
- Banking/Financial Institutions
- State Governments
- Local Governments
- Federal Government (Yikes)
- Medical Businesses
- Non-Profit Organizations
- Technology Companies
- Medical Insurance and Medical Offices/Clinics
Pretty shocking list when you consider that several of the organizations are on the list of those that you have to give your number to. They forgot to add your house if drunk cousin Billy has access to your wallet at the family barb-b-que.
So maybe my husband thinks I’m a cranky ole geezer woman. So what? I’m protecting my bleeping identity even on days when I’m not quite sure who I am. In other words “I ain’t telling nobody nuthin about my SS number!” Now I’m gonna go sit on the back porch in my rocking chair, smoke on my corncob pipe and cast ornery looks at passers-by.
Useful Privacy and For Your Information Links: