Help Desk FAQ



Should I give my Social Security number to a cable provider or the utility company?

This is exactly what a few consumers were wondering when they called Consumer Action’s Hotline for advice. According to the Social Security Administration, there are specific laws that require a person to provide his/her SSN for certain purposes. In general, a SSN is required by:

  • Internal Revenue Service for tax returns and federal loans
  • Employers for wage and tax reporting purposes
  • States for the school lunch program
  • Banks for monetary transactions
  • Veterans Administration as a hospital admission number
  • Department of Labor for workers’ compensation
  • Department of Education for student loans
  • States to administer any tax, general public assistance, motor vehicle or driver’s license law within its jurisdiction
  • States for child support enforcement
  • States for commercial driver’s licenses
  • States for food stamps
  • States for Medicaid
  • States for unemployment compensation
  • States for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families
  • U.S. Treasury for U.S. Savings Bonds

Anybody can ask for your SSN, but that doesn’t mean you have to give it out. If you are trying to obtain cable or satellite TV services, for example, and the company representative asks you for your SSN, you should ask them:

  • Why do you need my SSN?
  • How is my number going to be used?
  • What laws require me to give you my SSN?
  • What are the consequences if I refuse to provide you with my SSN?
  • Are there any alternative numbers I can use to obtain this service?

Some companies might only ask you for the last four digits of your social and may accept an alternative number such as your driver’s license. Always check with the company if they would allow you to create an individual and personalized password, or PIN, without having to use your SSN for all transactions going forward.

Remember that it is YOUR choice to give out your Social Security number.






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Consumer Help Desk