smart spending

4 tips to protect your Social Security number

Ask a ton of questions
Ask a ton of questions © Diego Cervo/Shutterstock.com

If you just can't avoid giving out the number, "we advise people to ask a lot of questions," says Schifferle. Start with these.

  • "Why do you need my Social Security number?"
  • "Will my number be shared with anybody?"Your number and other nonpublic personal information may be shared by your bank with affiliates and other businesses. But federal law requires companies offering financial products such as loans, insurance or investment advice to tell how they share your information.
  • "May I see your privacy policy?"A legitimate business requesting your Social Security number should have a privacy policy explaining why personal information is collected, how it's used, and who will have access to it. The California attorney general's office recommends that if you're not satisfied with the terms of the policy or if there is no written policy, just walk away.
  • "How will my Social Security number be stored?"You want to know, for example, that your rental application won't sit in a pile on the apartment manager's desk that someone can sift through after hours. Feel confident that a business will take measures to protect your Social Security number.

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