BASIC (08-09)

RM 10201.010 Nonprogram Use of the Social Security Number (SSN)

A. Introduction to the nonprogram use of the SSN

Nonprogram use is when the SSN is used for purposes other than those related to maintaining individual records under the Social Security program.

The computer revolution in the 1960s provided the incentive for government agencies to adopt the widespread use of the SSN as a means of identifying individuals in their records. Use of the SSN expanded to the private sector computer and recordkeeping systems (e.g., banks, credit bureaus, hospitals, and educational institutions).

B. Policy for authorized nonprogram uses of the SSN

The following third parties are authorized to use the SSN for specific purposes:

  • Office of Personnel Management

  • Internal Revenue Service

  • Department of the Treasury

  • Public Assistance Agencies

  • Banks

  • Department of Veterans’ Affairs

  • State governments

  • Department of Defense

  • Parent Locator Service

  • Selective Service System

  • Department of Labor

  • Department of Agriculture

  • Department of Education

C. Policy for unauthorized nonprogram uses of the SSN

Many commercial enterprises have used, and continue to use, the SSN in various promotional efforts. Although not authorized by SSA, most are not illegal and SSA has no authority to prevent such uses.

1. Examples of unauthorized SSN use

Some common unauthorized uses of the SSN include:

  • SSN contests

  • Skip-tracers

  • Plastic or metal SSN cards

  • "Pocketbook" or specimen SSN cards

  • Commercial enterprises charging a fee for SSN-related services

  • Identification of personal property

NOTE: In the past, some organizations have displayed an actual SSN belonging to an individual in their advertising. These “pocketbook” SSN cards were typically provided in wallets. Do not disclose information about these “pocketbook” SSNs to anyone other than the true NH.

2. Reporting unauthorized uses of the SSN

To report an unauthorized use of an SSN, obtain all necessary information and forward it to your Regional Office Center for Automation, Security and Integrity to determine what action is necessary.

D. Policy for restricting nonprogram use of the SSN

SSA does not propose, endorse, nor initiate action that would encourage the expansion of nonprogram uses of the SSN. SSA will only consider extending the use of the SSN within the framework of the Social Security program.

There is no law that prevents a third party from using an individual's SSN as an identifier when provided by the individual. However, if the individual refuses to furnish the SSN on request, the third party can refuse the benefit or service the individual requested.


To Link to this section - Use this URL:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0110201010
RM 10201.010 - Nonprogram Use of the Social Security Number (SSN) - 05/26/2017
Batch run: 05/26/2017
Rev:05/26/2017