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AT&T Requiring Social Security Number

by CharPatton1 / November 28, 2009 9:32 AM PST


We went in today to purchase an iPhone from our local AT&T store. As we were going through the checkout process, the clerk asked for my social security number (in a crowded store). He was very polite, but stated that a SSN was absolutely required for us to get service with AT&T and my employer discount. We ended up cancelling the purchase over this issue.

Is this request for a SSN legitimate? Many sources warn against giving out SSNs to commercial businesses that are not your employer or bank.

Is this just a local store policy, or is this true of all of AT&T?

If so, does just AT&T require SSNs, or do all cell phone providers? I don?t remember giving my SSN to Verizon, but that was over 10 years ago and I?m sure I?ve become more cognizant of not giving out my SSN for non-essential purposes in the intervening decade.

Can one purchase an AT&T plan from your local Apple store? If so, does Apple require a SSN?

If this is true, why does AT&T require it? I provided my driver?s license, employer ID, and can give multiple credit card numbers. Given the high recent concern and publicity over identity theft, this seems, at least from my limited perspective, like an unnecessary and risky request from AT&T?s perspective.

Advice/answers to any of the above would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

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Nothing new to see here
by Pepe7 / December 1, 2009 12:23 AM PST

You are signing up for post-paid service, so they run a credit check that requires your SSN for verification purposes. Nothing new here- all the large carriers do this for post-paid service, as do banks for car loans, credit cards, mortgages, etc.

The risk of ID theft is still there regardless of whether or not you provide your SSN. Believe it not it's not hard for folks to manipulate our current system to determine your SSN in other ways to steal your identity. Providing ATT with your SSN isn't making this necessarily an easier process per se.

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(NT) Thanks for reply and info!
by CharPatton1 / December 1, 2009 10:46 PM PST
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Yes, it's so they can check your credit
by timhood / December 4, 2009 2:15 PM PST

The SSN is supplied for the same reason you need it to apply for a credit card, open a checking account, etc. They will check your credit to determine if it makes sense for them to give you several hundred dollars worth of electronics and whether they can expect you to pay your monthly bills for a 2-year contract period. In addition to the credit check, should you not meet your contractual obligation, they would use your SSN to ding your credit.

You might--just might--be able to avoid giving your SSN if you paid for the full value of the phone (therefore removing the need for the two-year contract and the AT&T subsidy).

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Not Just AT&T
by Hforman / December 4, 2009 1:25 PM PST

Technically, all cell phone and other carriers require SSNs. First of all, as mentioned, they need this for a credit check. Beyond that, the law provides for other uses. Law enforcement agencies and other government agencies have the legal right to obtain a subpoena and examine your records and even snoop on your phone calls if you are suspected of using your phone to commit crimes. Kind of like with legal wiretaps. SSN's are usually part of this procedure.

If you want a cell phone, you will have to provide addresses, SSNs, and lots of other identifying information. Anytime credit checks are concerned, even trying to rent an apartment these days, you will have to supply that information. This is not an AT&T issue. Some people like to live "off the grid" and like their privacy. Getting cell phones with an account is not something a lot of these people should be engaged it. If you don't want to let others here you giving your private information in at he store, write the number on a piece of paper and hand it to the rep. Ideally, the company should provide some semblance of privacy by not having other people close to you from the line. Sorry, but the old "this number is only for social security department use" just doesn't fly anymore. Sad, really. You get to make the choice.

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Not required
by b2hart / December 4, 2009 11:14 PM PST

the social security number was created strictly for the SS retirement. The Government said at the time the law was passed that it would never be used for any other purpose, but~! the IRS started using it. Now all sorts of non government businesses are requesting it. Hospitals, banks, mortgage companies, etc ask for it on forms. You are not required to provide it. They have other ways of checking your credit info that requires a little more effort on their part. If they refuse service, tell them you will report it to your congressman. You can google the question to find out some of the things lawmakers are doing to stop the abuses.

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You are out of your mind, sir
by Pepe7 / December 9, 2009 1:15 AM PST
In reply to: Not required

If you want a mortgage loan, you are required to provide a SSN. Period. End of discussion. Now run along.

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Another day on Cnet. . .Another low blow dis to AT&T. . .??
by rwolf1984 / December 5, 2009 10:16 AM PST

All mobile phone providers including AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, etc require this information for all contract activations because they check credit. The service provider is willing to take the risk that giving an 500 device on a discount that you will pay for the serivice each month. They subsidize the cost of the phone through the 2 year contract and required data service plan.

To all the people complaining about the Federal Govt. using it as a method of identifiication complain to you congress person not the cellphone store. You are required to give this information when you get credit from amex, finance a car, or open a bank account. So I dont understand why people are difficult. Most reputable carriers like AT&T go to far lengths and have policies in act to protect your personal information. Work with your sales person to transmit any personal information in a way you both feel comfortable, they will understand.

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ss# needed for a mobile phone??
by HouseAtPooneil / December 5, 2009 5:36 PM PST

Everyone out there has their own opinion concerning giving their ss# to a stranger- no matter HOW REPUTABLE of a company is asking us to supply it to them, and the risk involved- for yet one more source of convenience to us, oddly enough is possibly re-introduced against our own self security. *We can try to fool ourselves into thinking that giving our SS# is a source of security for THE huge revenue-making company if we want to think that... but If I don't pay my cellphone bill- am I really putting a $$ dent in the cell company I use- on such a level so as to have to give them my SS# in order to get their service in the first place? And you can multiply that as many times as you want, but the fact is that they make a fortune off of us. Not only that, but I hate cellphones for the obvious reasons- and included in those reasons would be the fact that I don't want a microwave oven next to my head. My cellphone is for emergency use only, on a prepaid phone card- so I was not asked for my SS# either. If it was necessary- I would have scrapped the idea all together of a cell, but that's just me. For those of you that must use cellphones frequently, please use hands free setup. These little phones are far more lethal than you may think. Did you know, that your outer ear and entire ear canal literally acts as a parabolic dish antenna, absorbing the microwave freq. and guiding it straight to the brain? Think about it. Want proof? -Point your car alarm's remote facing into your ear and see the huge increase in transmit range! It's lower in frequency, but the principle is the same. So for that- the big guys want our SS# as $ security $ on their deadly profit. Sorry for the rant everyone, but this goes against my better judgment in certain ways, but it's easy to understand. Might as well light up a cigarette.

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Interesting analogy
by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / December 5, 2009 11:35 PM PST

"your outer ear and entire ear canal literally acts as a parabolic dish antenna, absorbing the microwave freq. and guiding it straight to the brain"

and yet

"Point your car alarm's remote facing into your ear and see the huge increase in transmit range! It's lower in frequency, but the principle is the same."

Interesting that the cell phone signal gets guided into the brain but the car alarm remote goes in the opposite direction.

Just saying


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Talk with a trained scientist/physician
by Pepe7 / December 9, 2009 1:18 AM PST

They will likely refute some of your claims.

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Apple Store did ask for my SS number.
by lederemc / December 6, 2009 10:12 PM PST

However, I was allowed to type it into their machine without the clerk seeing it. When the Enter button is hit the number is obscured, so the Apple store staff do not get your number but AT&T does. I have a fraud alert on my credit report so the AT&T folks called the store and asked me some questions - like who holds my mortgage - to prove I was really me.

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Cell Phone-SSN--go prepaid
by jrap30 / December 7, 2009 3:01 AM PST

This is the main selling point of a prepaid plan (buy pre-paid cards or use your credit card)...no background check......no credit history therefore you do not need yo give out a SSN. Try Tracphone, T-Mobile or Verizon To-Go plans

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The Gov't Wimped Out on SSN Privacy for Non-Gov't Users
by ElectronChaser / December 12, 2009 1:43 PM PST

While there are some limitations and requirements on government agencies' solicitations, uses, and disclosures of Social Security numbers, they pretty much left private entities to themselves in terms of the same issues. There are some limitations on high-profile institutions like banks and credit reporting agencies, but in general if a business wants your SSN to open an account, accept a check, or to hand you a toothpick, they can do so. You can, in turn, choose not to do business with them. It is considered a private transaction between you and the other party. They are not prohibited from asking, and the requirements for them to protect that, or any other information you volunteer, are almost nonexistent. The Privacy Act (which even the government largely ignores!) does not apply to non-government entities.

Not that I applaud this arrangement; As a minimum, I think the law should define the SSN as federally-assigned information that cannot be required or solicited for non-federal purposes... but that's not what we have. I would have walked out on the deal exactly as you did!

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You can stay on pre-paid then (LOL)
by Pepe7 / December 22, 2009 12:58 AM PST

It's one thing being stubborn for a valid reason, but another to be simply ignorant of the entire picture. Providing a SSN for post-paid service isn't as bad as it's cracked up to be.

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pre paid
by kierralierra3133 / February 25, 2010 10:37 AM PST

if ss num is not important, describe for me what is, I am curious, not trying to be an ah.

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ad nauseum
by Pepe7 / March 5, 2010 9:48 AM PST
In reply to: pre paid

The privacy nuts have their views, and the rest of us live in the real world. We obtain car loans, mortgages and conduct other business quite safely, sometimes requiring out SSN.

If you, even for a moment, think that identity theft is limited to situations where someone has obtained your SSN, you have a lot to learn about how crime works and what opportunties are out there to be exploited. Speak with anyone working in a bank or detective working in the local police department if you want a valid second opinion. The notion that providing the SSN is necessarily giving the one chance to steal your identity is far fetched at best.

Your comments are welcome on the issue.

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A lot of folks need to learn a lot more about ID theft
by 545769898 / November 10, 2011 6:14 AM PST

I see you received some pretty ignorant replies to your question.

Yes, the parts about credit checks below are accurate, but contrary to other claims below, providing your SSN to AT&T (or anyone who doesn't already have it) DOES increase your risk of ID theft. The SSA discusses about this on their website. Many other sites discuss this and a list of 2009 breaches is here: http://www.identitytheft.info/breaches09.aspx And yes, an AT&T affiliate is on the list.

I did not provide my SSN to Sprint when they asked for it and was able to obtain service. I just declined switching to AT&T because they did insist. If more people were willing to to do this, providers would figure out ways around the requirement. One simple way would be a deposit in lieu of a credit check. Another would be to provide evidence of reliable payments over the past year for phone service.

As you probably know, you can refuse to provide it to your doctor and many others who routinely ask for it. Lately I've taken to asking them if they are willing provide indemnity for any losses I may incur if my SSN is stolen from them. They always decline, as do I.

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Thread closed
by birdmantd Forum moderator / November 10, 2011 8:15 AM PST

This thread was started in 2009 and further discussions are not necessary. If someone has a similar inquiry/concern on the same subject, please start a new thread. As far as this thread is concerned we are going to stop beating this dead horse.

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