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With everyone from Ashley Madison, to Target, to the federal government getting hacked these days, it's no wonder people are feeling wary about where and with whom they share their personal information. And it doesn't get more personal than your Social Security number.
Those nine digits are the key to your taxes, your credit ... essentially your entire identity. So if a job application asks you for your Social Security number, should you include it?
Many job applicants are reporting that employers are asking for their Social Security numbers as part of the initial online job applications, and not allowing applicants to continue with the process until they include their SSN on the application. And you're right to be wary about giving your SSN out at this early stage of the application process.
Unfortunately, most states don't have laws prohibiting employers from requiring this kind of information, so it may be up to you to protect yourself. Do you research on the employer and make sure they're legitimate. You can contact them and see if they will accept a hand delivered application. And if you must provide your Social Security number online, monitor your credit report and bank statements closely for any anomalies.
Later in the hiring process, however, your Social Security number will be necessary. Employers must verify an applicant's employment eligibility, and confirm the applicant is either a U.S. citizen or otherwise authorized for legal employment. Normally this requires an applicant's SSN.
Most employers will also want to perform a background check, which will also require your Social Security number. Eligibility reviews and background checks normally come later in the hiring process, when you've hopefully developed a level of trust with the employer and can confirm they are not just scamming you out of your SSN.
Job applicants should be careful when putting their Social Security number on an application. If you think your SSN has been stolen, or you've been the victim of identity theft, you should consult with an experienced Internet attorney near you.