Basic (08-09)

RM 10201.015 Responding to Inquiries about Nonprogram Use of the SSN

A. Responding to general questions

You can respond to most inquiries about nonprogram use of the SSN as follows:

  1. 1. 

    Provide an explanation of SSA's position on nonprogram use per Nonprogram Use of the SSN, RM 10201.010.

  2. 2. 

    Do not encourage public or private nonprogram use of the SSN.

  3. 3. 

    Explain that the inquirer must first request the SSN directly from the number holder. Emphasize that the SSN should be copied from the actual SSN card.

  4. 4. 

    Point out the rules on confidentiality. SSA discloses an individual's SSN only if permitted by law.

  5. 5. 

    If a third party wishes to use the SSN for its recordkeeping system and an individual does not have or does not wish to disclose his or her SSN, suggest that an alternative identification system be used, specifically one that does not involve nine digits similar to the SSN. If the third party wishes to use a nine-digit number, suggest using numbers that cannot be confused with an SSN, preferably a number beginning with the digits "000".

B. Responding to persistent inquiries

Advise the inquirer to put the request in writing and forward it to your Regional Office staff, who will consult with Central Office.

C. Responding to adverse criticism

Responses to adverse criticism about third-party use or disclosure of the SSN are:

  • SSNs are assigned to keep an accurate record of earnings for future benefit purposes and to monitor benefits paid based on those earnings. Various laws authorize the use of the SSN by certain Federal and State agencies for specific purposes.

  • Once an SSN has been assigned, SSA has no authority over who might ask a person to provide it or what uses are made of the number.

  • Whether an individual discloses his or her SSN when requested by a third party is a personal matter between the individual and the requester. However, the individual may be denied a benefit or service based on refusal to furnish the SSN. SSA cannot require a third party to provide a benefit or service to anyone refusing to disclose an SSN.

  • SSA records are confidential by law. Knowledge of an individual's SSN alone does not give the third party access to information about the individual in SSA's files.

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RM 10201.015 - Responding to Inquiries about Nonprogram Use of the SSN - 08/28/2009
Batch run: 04/16/2013