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"It's that prevalent." Just because someone asks for it doesn't mean you have to comply, says Michael J.
Arata, the author of "Identity Theft For Dummies," especially since there are only a handful of organizations that actually have a valid need for it.
"The reason a doctor or a dentist asks for your Social Security number is that, should you die while under his or her care, they are required to put your Social Security number on the death certificate," says Foley.
Even so, fulfilling noncredit-related requests -- even medical-related requests -- is purely optional, says L.
Here's what each section means: Prior to 1972, Social Security cards were issued from local offices.
The numbers reflected the locations of those offices.
In fact, you may be surprised at how far-reaching this practice is, says Foley.
"A few years ago, we were putting some of my mother's things into storage, and they wanted her Social Security number to use as a pass code," she says.
If you're like most Americans, it's also something you give out all too frequently.
Jean Camp, an associate professor at Indiana University and the author of "Economics of Identity Theft." "The problem is that you have the right to say that you're not going to give out your Social Security number, but a business owner has the right to say he's not going to do business with you," says Camp. They're just being cautious by giving themselves a way to track you down if you don't pay a bill." Gracefully saying 'no' One of the best ways to get out of giving your Social Security number to someone is to simply overlook it on your paperwork, says Arata. If you're questioned, however, ITRC's Foley suggests being proactive.
"The most basic thing you can do is ask the person or organization why they need it.
Group number (shown in black): This number is a relic of paper filing systems.
As the SSA says, "This was done back in 1936 because in that era there were no computers and all the records were stored in filing cabinets.