TN 8 (10-23)

RM 10201.015 Responding to Inquiries about Nonprogram Use of the Social Security Number (SSN)

A. Responding to general questions

You can respond to most inquiries about nonprogram use of the Social Security number (SSN) as follows:

  1. 1. 

    Provide an explanation of SSA's position on nonprogram use as provided in RM 10201.010 Nonprogram Use of the Social Security Number (SSN).

  2. 2. 

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

  3. 3. 

    Explain that the third party 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 an SSN or does not wish to disclose it, 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.

  • Disclosure of the SSN is a personal matter between the individual and the requester. If providing the SSN is required in order to receive a benefit or service, an individual may be denied for refusing 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 Social Security Number (SSN) - 10/25/2023
Batch run: 10/25/2023